BERLIN — Students at Berlin Intermediate School (BIS) are using an art project to highlight an environmental issue with the help of Blume’s Balloon Roundup.
Fourth-graders at BIS are using balloons collected by Josh and Emily Blume, the local siblings who launched the Blume’s Balloon Roundup campaign this summer, to create sculptures of marine life.
“This is a neat opportunity for our kids,” Principal Ryan Cowder said. “I think this adds some real-world applicability to the art.”
On Tuesday, the Blume siblings and their parents met with students in teacher Stefanie McElhinny’s art class. Josh, 12, and Emily, 10, told the students how they’d been inspired to start the balloon roundup after hearing their father, charter boat captain Luke Blume, talk about the extensive amount of balloons he saw floating in the waters offshore. The Blumes decided to challenge local boaters to pick up any balloons they saw in the water with a contest. Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, they collected gift cards to offer as prizes to the three boats that collected the most balloons. The siblings’ initial goal of bringing in 1,000 balloons was exceeded early on, and by the time the contest concluded Sept. 30 they’d collected 1,392 balloons. The winning boat was the Top Dog, which brought in 132 balloons.
“We had some balloons come in from as far away as the Bahamas,” Emily Blume said.
Her brother said they hoped the contest had encouraged boaters to do more than simply note the array of balloons they passed on the water.
“Now we’re hoping that even though the contest is over they’ll keep collecting them and not just overlook them,” Josh Blume said.
He said the reason he and his sister wanted to help decrease the amount of balloons in the water was to protect the sea creatures who often got tangled in balloons or mistook them for food.
“Almost all sea life is affected,” Josh Blume said, adding that a local fisherman had caught a mahi-mahi and upon cleaning it realized its stomach was full of balloons it had ingested. Sea creatures often mistake the balloons for food.
Luke Blume told the students that the balloons did not disintegrate and could potentially float around in the ocean forever.
“I think a lot of people think they go up in the air and disappear,” he said. “They end up in the ocean.”
He said more than 160 people had reported the number of balloons they’d collected during the course of the three-month contest. The majority expressed interest in seeing the campaign continue.
“We’re going to try to do it again next year,” the elder Blume said.
Following the family’s presentation, McElhinney explained to her students that they’d be using newspaper and plaster to make sculptures of sea creatures that they would then cover with cut-up pieces of balloons the Blumes had collected.
“The symbolism in our project is the idea of using materials that destroy the wildlife to create statues serving as tributes to them,” she said.
Cowder said the project not only encouraged students to think about humans’ impact on the environment but enabled them to take part in the Blumes’ effort to rid the ocean of balloons.
“They’re going to feel connected,” he said. “It raises environmental awareness and they can feel like they’re part of the project so they’re more apt to talk about it, to share it.”