Day 66 of the BP Oil Spill: What Would a Kid Do to Fix This Mess?

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"Kids Make It Better" by Suzy Becker activates kids' empathy, emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills.

Kids Make It Better (Workman)

"If the government wants to get toxic stuff out, they shouldn't put toxic stuff in!" (Emma, age 11)

Several years ago, Suzy Becker, author of the new book, Kids Make It Better (Workman) was teaching 2nd and 3rd grades, and a bunch of her kids were upset about an oil-doused duck they'd seen on the front page of The Boston Globe, not unlike the photos we are seeing every day of the wildlife along the Gulf Coast, victims of the current catastrophic BP oil spill. Suzy scrapped her lesson plan, handed out some paper and asked the kids a question: "If you were in charge, if you were the President or a scientist or an inventor, what would you do to clean up the oil slick?"

The kids began to write and draw. Meghan wrote, "I would get a big sponge and tie it with ropes to a helicopter. Then lower it down and soak up all the oil." Kathryn wrote, "I would put suntan lotion on all the animals. Then take the water out and wash it in a washing machine and put it back."

Said Suzy Becker, "These kids weren't daunted-- you could see, with each minute, they were less and less upset. They were busy 'solving' the problem. " As Suzy watched them working away, she started to think, "I could put any problem in front of any roomful of kids and they would come up with solutions. And the more I thought, the more the idea grew on me."

Eighty classrooms and 20 elementary schools later, she had the beginnings of the "Kids Make it Better" book. Last summer, she turned those beginnings into a write-in, draw-in journal for 6 to 10 year-olds everywhere.

Over the last several weeks, Suzy has asked dozens of 6-10 year-olds what they would do to solve this problem and how they would admonish the people who are responsible. The answers ranged from inventive to hilarious. Most importantly, all of the kids who she asked indeed cared, had an answer and wanted to help find a solution. Here are a few of the kids' responses to how to clean up the spill:

"If the government wants to get toxic stuff out, they shouldn't put toxic stuff in!" (Emma, age 11)

"Use marshmallows. They will expand and gunk up the hole better than mud." (Jared, age 7)

"Put a bunch of cockroaches in scuba gear and have them drink up the oil." (Wil, age 8)

"Use ping pong balls. They will float and fill up the hole, like a snorkel." (Logan, age 8)

"Put a big ball of chewed gum in the hole." (Izi, age 11)

"Put duct tape over the hole." (Ruby Belle, age 10)

"Connect a tube to the leak so the oil will rush into containers floating on the surface." (Makiah, age 10)

"They should get a boat and try to get every fish and shark and octopus and plant and every thing, sort of like Noah and the Ark, so they can have babies and won't be gone forever." (Leilan, age 7)

Kids' suggestions on how to admonish those responsible for the spill included:

"The company should buy more fish and put them back in the ocean." (Josh, age 7)

"First, BP should say they are sorry for causing this problem. Then they should figure out how other people won't cause this same problem." (Amy, age 7)

"BP should work for no cost and do everything they can to solve this problem as their punishment. When it is solved they should dedicate their time to preventing another problem like this."(Leilan, age 7)

"BP should make sure everybody is okay and help clean up the oil." (Reilly, age 7)

"BP should go in the boat. They should send out a sorry note. They should have to run a marathon." (Justin, age 7)

"For their punishment, BP executives should get a baby tadpole and put it their bathtub. And play with it." (Nolan, Age 4)

"They should have to move all the things that are still living to a place that has clean water." (Aurora, age 5)

Adds Becker, "To me, these kids answers - their wisdom, humor, conviction and compassion -are an antidote to what we're seeing and hearing about the spill, but more than that, they're a source of hope. If we can orient our kids toward solving, not being overwhelmed or ignoring problems, the world will be much better off."

Get your kids involved. Teach them that they too can make a difference. Check out or go to

NOTE: Please contact Andrea Burnett 650.207.0917 for a review copy or more information.


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