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This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.
HOLLADAY — The Great Salt Lake is a critical resource for families here in Utah but sometimes it's difficult to express its importance with data and statistics. One group of local teenagers hopes creativity can bridge the gap and bring understanding and urgency to the issue.
Tristen Sharp, an eighth grader at Wasatch Charter School in Salt Lake City has learned a lot about the endangered Great Salt Lake this school year. One of his biggest worries is what could happen to Utah's air quality if more dry lakebed is exposed due to shrinking water levels.
"It would affect our air quality. We'd lose, probably, the title of the 'Greatest Snow on Earth,'" Sharp said.
Cameras have captured images of a storm coming off the lake and filling the air in Salt Lake City with dangerous dust. It's an image that Sharp won't soon forget.
Sharp, along with his classmates, was assigned to research and study the Great Salt Lake to cap off their eighth-grade year. They spent weeks learning about the importance of the lake, its impact on multiple industries, and why conservation is critical.
In addition to a five- to 10-page essay on the problem, students also created artwork aimed at illustrating the issue or showcasing the lake's beauty.
Using everything from paints and pencils to yarn and even natural elements from the lake itself the students learned to connect and appreciate this vital resource.
"It can look very beautiful, even though it's endangered," said Aliyah Knighton, a Wasatch eighth grader.
Teacher Heidrun Kubiessa said the assignment gave students the chance to embrace the lake and all it does for Utah. "This landmark, the Great Salt Lake, being in peril is a great opportunity for them to apply their knowledge, to get engaged in something that's relevant."
The students' artwork will be on display at the City Library in Salt Lake City from June 1 to Aug. 20.