Markers, crayons, colored pencils, tablets, brushes and paint created a colorful mess on Kolleen’s desk. The creative clutter didn’t end there. Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of an upside-down pizza box, 12 year-old Kolleen was happily sketching away with a bright blue marker. Nothing about school work came easily to Kolleen, but when it came to drawing and painting she was awesome.
And that’s exactly what her friend Ryan said when he saw what she’d drawn, “That’s over the top, Kolleen,” he raved, “It looks like the whale is jumping out of the pizza box.”
“Claire,” he added, “Come over here. You’ve gotta take a picture of this one.”
Claire always had her phone ready for pictures. To her, it was a camera first and a way to talk and text second. The three friends from Pacific Heights Middle School’s Blue Team (which used to be the Green Team) had cooked up another big idea. They’d all met through the Blue Team at school and really cemented their friendship during the field trips and beach cleanups. Claire, in her quiet way had started a snowball of “blue life” action around school by creating the “#mybluelife – My Choices Matter” buttons. It seemed like most of the students in their 7th grade class and even some 8th graders had a button stuck on their backpack.
Ryan, whose parents owned Mama-Pops Pizza had gone a step further. Not only had he convinced them to stop using plastic straws at the restaurant, they had a jar of the buttons on the checkout counter by the register. Instead of taking a mint on the way out, customers could take a button – but only if they asked about it. That was the point. The button was meant to start conversations and get people thinking about how their choices could impact the earth, and the ocean. Hashtags like #MyBlueLife always seemed to invite a question.
As Claire waded through the mess that always covered the floor of Kolleen’s bedroom she suddenly got a glimpse of what Kolleen had sketched on the bottom of the pizza box, “Holy cow! That is AMAZING!!!!” Grabbing the box from Kolleen, Claire took it over by the window to see it in the sunlight, “This is exactly what we need.”
A bit sheepishly Kolleen rubbed her nose, leaving a blue streak from the marker, and smiled with pride. “Yeah,” Ryan added, “Everybody who buys a pizza this month is going to think twice before choosing a plastic water bottle or bag.”
The kids had cooked up a great “blue life” idea after they’d taken a long bike ride around the reservoir earlier that Saturday morning. As usual, Ryan had invited them to stop at his parents’ pizza shop on the way home. His dad and mom always had pizza ready for Ryan and his friends. They seemed to be always working and really appreciated that Ryan liked coming by with his friends. Pacific Heights was a small town and everyone seemed to connect at Mama-Pops Pizza. Ryan pushed open the door and smelled the familiar scent of fresh baked pizza and the sight of Mom spinning a large crust high overhead. No matter how often he saw it he still thought it was pretty cool to see how easy it was for her. Dad was in charge of sauce, cooking up a batch of Ryan’s Grandma’s secret recipe straight from her own mother. Pizza was not just a job for the family, it was a huge part of their life and history.
Ryan’s mom, Sylvie, came by the table after the kids had gobbled up a few slices, wiping a bit of flour off her hands on her checkered apron. “How was your bike ride?” she asked with a smile, ruffling Ryan’s hair.
Claire held out her phone, “Scroll to the right, it was a very great day.”
Claire had taken dozens of pictures during their ride around the reservoir. The day had been sunny bright without a breath of wind. The surface of the reservoir was like a mirror. There was one shot of Ryan and Kolleen standing next to their bikes reflected perfectly in the water blow. You could turn the picture upside down and the image looked right, the reflection was so clear.
“Mom, hey, let me have the phone. I want to show you something,” said Ryan reaching out. Thumbing through the pictures, Ryan turned his mom’s attention to one shot he had taken. He thought it was pretty sweet. Mom couldn’t help but say, “Oh my gosh, how cool,” when she saw what Ryan had captured.
A red tailed hawk had been soaring above their heads as they rode. When they stopped for a water break they had kept an eye out for the hawk, he was big and looked so strong gliding close to the surface of the water. Ryan had asked Claire if he could try to get a shot of the hawk. Of course Claire said sure. As Ryan focused in on the hawk and began to take a series of quick shots, the hawk reached out his talons and grabbed a fish right out of the water. Ryan was shocked to see that he had captured it. As Mom oohed and ahhed over the picture, Kolleen was sketching away, as she always did, on the bottom of the pizza box.
By the time the others noticed what she was doing the drawing was almost complete, “Wow!” shouted Mom, Claire and Ryan in unison. They couldn’t believe she had drawn it so quickly. After seeing the image of the hawk with the fish an idea jumped into Kolleen’s mind. In addition to all the beauty at the reservoir she had been saddened to see empty plastic water bottles and some snack wrappers floating on the edge. Seeing the image of the hawk she had sketched the reservoir with a hawk. But instead of having a fish in its talons the hawk was soaring away with a grimy plastic water bottle. The message was crystal clear.
Ryan’s mom looked thoughtfully at the image and an idea began to form. “Would you kids like to help us be even better at motivating people to make “blue life” choices?”
Of course they all nodded eagerly. She continued, “Why don’t you come up with an image we could have printed on the bottom of all of our pizza boxes? You could only use two colors or the printing would be very expensive. Why not create something using black and blue as your colors? Our logo could be designed differently so it would be those same colors. Hundreds of pizza boxes go out of here every week. I believe your picture could make people think. Meanwhile, Kolleen may I take this sketch and hang the pizza box in our front window by the menu? I think it would start some great conversations.”
So that was what had lead to the moment when Claire and Ryan saw Kolleen’s best drawing yet. Using just black and blue markers Kolleen had drawn a picture from a photo Claire had of a whale jumping out of the water. Instead of a wave of water splashing around the whale as it leaped, there was a swell of plastic debris. Intricate drawings of water bottles, toothbrushes, plastic bags and straws made a collage of ocean trash where the beautiful white spray should have been. #myblue life and “My Choices Matter” formed a logo at the top of the drawing.
The drawing didn’t make the kids happy like Claire’s photo had. But the message was clear and it was important. Claire took a snapshot of Kolleen’s drawing and texted it to Ryan’s mom. By the end of the week the image and its message was printed on the bottom of 1000 pizza boxes. Mom had added one thing to the image. In the bottom corner she had added, “Blue Life Inspiration provided by Kolleen, Claire and Ryan from the Pacific Heights Middle School Blue Team.”
And that made everyone happy.
Do you have your copy of the The Quest for Blue Planet Super Heroes? You can get one here.