Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) Advanced Placement Environmental Science students identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, evaluate the risks associated with those problems and examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them.
Recently students in Stephanie Fiorino's class dissected boluses from Albatross birds, which is the large sea bird species found in the north Pacific. The purpose was to assess the effects of plastic on the health of these birds. Students dissected the bolus which is all the indigestible material that is "thrown up" by an albatross bird.
While students found 331 natural items during their experiment, they also found 152 non-natural items, which weighed almost twice as much as the natural items. The non-natural material, mainly plastic, does not biodegrade. At sea, large chunks of plastic break down into increasingly smaller fragments that are easy for Albatrosses and other animals to consume.
The mass of non-natural material confuses the birds into thinking they are full, which leads to malnutrition and ultimately death.
As for possible solutions, students discussed better ocean and beach cleanup efforts, engineering biodegradable plastics and educating the public about the harmful effects of plastic waste on animals and the environment.
PWHS offers more Advanced Placement courses than most public and private high schools in the region. In the past 10 years, PWHS has had 908 AP Scholars, including 257 AP Scholars with Distinction and 19 AP National Scholars.