EXTRAORDINARY PHYTOPLANKTON: MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE – AND CONNECT THE DOTS BETWEEN THE OCEAN, OUR DAILY LIFE, AND CLIMATE CHANGE (6-7 GRADE, Breil-sur-Roya, FRANCE)

An exciting 3-hour session about Extraordinary #Phytoplankton with a group of dedicated 6th & 7th graders of the College L’Eau Vive in Breil-sur-Roya, France. An art + Science project with Adopt A Float (A program from the Institut de la Mer de Villefranche, France), Alliance for Youth Achievement [Instagram: @a4ya_org], with a grant from California Arts Council [@calartscouncil] and San Jose Culture [@sjculture]. 

This session is especially meaningful for me because Breil-sur-Roya is the small village my mom is originally from, where I spent many summers during my childhood, and where I always come back to. I am in Breil right now, spending the longest time during winter here to date, and enjoying it very much.

This group of students is very invested in the voluntary environmental class they take with their science teacher Laeticia Mozziconacci. I am very impressed with how much they know about plankton and the ocean. They had lots of interesting comments and questions. 

The workshop includes the creation of an installation of observational drawings of enlarged phytoplankton species made on recycled cardboard boxes. The students use scientific photographic documentation taken during the Tonga oceanographic mission in the South Pacific Ocean directed by my sister Cécile Guieu in 2019. 

Phytoplankton plays an extraordinary role in the ocean and beyond: captures CO2 & produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, and is the base of the ocean food chain.

On top of this, phytoplankton is extraordinarily beautiful. 

To make our installation we used cardboard, glue, and pieces of Velcro, all produced by industrial processes dependent on fossil fuels. Seemingly very simple, the fabrication of cardboard, Velcro, and glue, implies extraction of materials, transportation, distribution – and pollution, including CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. At each step of the fabrication, many machines (not only trucks) use fossil fuels.

We learned that phytoplankton is also a key component in the oil formation process (a process that takes millions of years, that’s why oil is a nonrenewable fossil fuel). Although oil, in particular, is one incredible energy (extremely concentrated and easy to transport and to use), its use poses an unprecedented threat to the biosphere. We are living the time when we have to stop using it and transition to other energies.

We touched on the fact that stopping the use of fossil fuels (and therefore the GHG emissions associated with them) has implications for all aspects of our lives (oil is everywhere). A necessary but extremely complex transition is necessary. 


All the Workshops

  • College Vento, Menton, France, 6th, 7th, 8th grade, November 2021.
  • Ecole Elementaire Calderoni, Villefranche sur Mer, France, 2nd and 4th grade, November 2021.
  • College Rusca, St Dalmas de Tende, France, 6th grade, with Laeticia Mozziconacci, science teacher, January 2022.
  • College l’Eau Vive, Breil-sur-Roya, France, Environmental optional free class, 6th and 7th grade, With Laeticia Mozziconacci, science teacher, January 2022.

Images were taken during the workshop with the 6th and 7th graders,
College L’Eau Vive, (L’Eau Vive middle school), Breil-sur-Roya, France.

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