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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesStudent Mural Project Issues Environmental Call to Action

Student Mural Project Issues Environmental Call to Action

Phebe Schwartz and Christine Settar (middle from left) with the BCB students that participated in the project.An ongoing project sponsored by the University of the Virgin Islands is using art to teach local middle school students the dangers of abusing their environment.

At the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on St. Thomas, the project culminated Tuesday with the unveiling of a mural that depicts "what makes a healthy reef, and what makes a sick reef," according to art teacher Phebe Schwartz.

"On the left side, the panels show a healthy reef, conservation of the land, solar houses, electric cars and moorings for the boats," she said. "And the right-side panels show bulldozers and trucks mowing down trees, bare lands, a satellite dish, some kind of factory that’s leaking pollution into the soil and water that’s all murky from the runoff."

To complete the mural, Schwartz’s art students also did research on local fish that live in coral reefs and the predatory fish that move in when the reef is not healthy. Schwartz said the students were inspired by presentations made by Christine Settar, the marine stewardship coordinator for UVI’S Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, who talked to them about everything from nonpoint source pollution to how coral reef damage impacts the environment, natural resources and even jobs on the island.

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"I think the whole thing was great," Schwartz said. "I think the students learned a lot, and it was easy to incorporate the art lesson into what also turned out to be a social studies and science lesson. I think the students are more proficient and aware now of what they can do in the community to help save the coral reefs and how it impacts all of us."

Settar said the campaign, called "The Reef is Closer Than You Think," is sponsored by a $40,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coral reef conservation program and has been rolled out in a number of phases, including public service announcements and commercials.

"The mural is also a big part of it," she said Tuesday. "And it’s been a yearlong process for us, going to the schools, calling them, and teaching them about changing their attitudes and behaviors, and using the arts to address that."

Along with BCB, St. Croix Educational Complex has already displayed its mural, and UVI is working to continue getting the message out by putting up signs on 10 "heavily used or under-managed" beaches in the territory, where residents can see what it looks like under the water and tips on how to behave around the reefs.

"They are going up all over the islands," Settar said. "We want to make sure people know how to be safe around the reefs and how to keep them from harm." Commercials aired as a part of the campaign also talk about issues such as overfishing, anchoring boats on the reefs, and what people can do to help their coastal environments.

With the mural project, Settar said the students were hesitant at first, but became more enthusiastic as they got more involved and found their own "niches" in the project.

BCB eighth-grader Trent Farrington said he did not pay attention to the issue of pollution before coming on board for the mural.

"But then I saw that some of the animals were getting affected in the water from the waste," he said. "Now I want to help more with the trash, and making sure we pick it up."

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Phebe Schwartz and Christine Settar (middle from left) with the BCB students that participated in the project.An ongoing project sponsored by the University of the Virgin Islands is using art to teach local middle school students the dangers of abusing their environment.

At the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on St. Thomas, the project culminated Tuesday with the unveiling of a mural that depicts "what makes a healthy reef, and what makes a sick reef," according to art teacher Phebe Schwartz.

"On the left side, the panels show a healthy reef, conservation of the land, solar houses, electric cars and moorings for the boats," she said. "And the right-side panels show bulldozers and trucks mowing down trees, bare lands, a satellite dish, some kind of factory that's leaking pollution into the soil and water that's all murky from the runoff."

To complete the mural, Schwartz's art students also did research on local fish that live in coral reefs and the predatory fish that move in when the reef is not healthy. Schwartz said the students were inspired by presentations made by Christine Settar, the marine stewardship coordinator for UVI'S Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, who talked to them about everything from nonpoint source pollution to how coral reef damage impacts the environment, natural resources and even jobs on the island.

"I think the whole thing was great," Schwartz said. "I think the students learned a lot, and it was easy to incorporate the art lesson into what also turned out to be a social studies and science lesson. I think the students are more proficient and aware now of what they can do in the community to help save the coral reefs and how it impacts all of us."

Settar said the campaign, called "The Reef is Closer Than You Think," is sponsored by a $40,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coral reef conservation program and has been rolled out in a number of phases, including public service announcements and commercials.

"The mural is also a big part of it," she said Tuesday. "And it's been a yearlong process for us, going to the schools, calling them, and teaching them about changing their attitudes and behaviors, and using the arts to address that."

Along with BCB, St. Croix Educational Complex has already displayed its mural, and UVI is working to continue getting the message out by putting up signs on 10 "heavily used or under-managed" beaches in the territory, where residents can see what it looks like under the water and tips on how to behave around the reefs.

"They are going up all over the islands," Settar said. "We want to make sure people know how to be safe around the reefs and how to keep them from harm." Commercials aired as a part of the campaign also talk about issues such as overfishing, anchoring boats on the reefs, and what people can do to help their coastal environments.

With the mural project, Settar said the students were hesitant at first, but became more enthusiastic as they got more involved and found their own "niches" in the project.

BCB eighth-grader Trent Farrington said he did not pay attention to the issue of pollution before coming on board for the mural.

"But then I saw that some of the animals were getting affected in the water from the waste," he said. "Now I want to help more with the trash, and making sure we pick it up."