N.D. students collect plastic shopping bags after learning about sea turtle troubles | North Dakota News

HUNTER — Four fourth-graders want their classmates, teachers and neighbors to save wildlife and the environment by saying bye-bye to plastic grocery bags.

Ella Heilman, Siena Newland and Brooklyn Anderson of Harwood Elementary School, and Samantha Fliginger of Northern Cass School are champions of sea turtles. As part of research for FIRST Lego League robotics competitions, they learned that the reptiles are dying because they eat plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish.

Fliginger, the group’s Northern Cass member, said the plight of the turtles needs to be addressed.

“We figured that’s a big problem,” she said. “Plastic bags are like floating into the ocean and turtles are swallowing them and being hurt by them.”

Plastic bags block sea turtles’ digestive tracts, and food caught in the bags will release gas as it decomposes, making the turtles buoyant and unable to hunt. Chemicals from the bags can also affect the reptiles’ health.

The Hurdles of Turtles team took second place in the regional Lego League competition, which had the theme “Animal Allies.” While the first-year team members had trouble with their robot at the state competition, they earned a first-place honor for their Core Values Project, said Fliginger’s mother, Melanie.

The girls then decided they wanted to make a difference locally, and contacted Fargo City Commissioner John Strand for his advice.

Strand once suggested banning plastic grocery bags in the city, but now favors handing out reusable bags and public education.

“I’m just really gratified when we see people, especially young people, commit themselves to a movement,” Strand said. “It’s infectious to see their enthusiasm and their simple clarity about, ‘This is not good, and we need to do better.’ It’s that basic, and simple, and true.”

Strand pointed the students…

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