What I’ve been doing in the schools …

Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of talking with over 200 students in primary and secondary.

I was at Discovery College talking with the Year 6s on their unit of inquiry titled “Organisations can make a difference to humankind and the environment”.  They learnt about DB Green, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Project Kaisei and 5 Gyres.  4 organisations involved in action, education and research.   They learnt about the one huge problem of plastics in our oceans and how each of the organisations was coming from a different angle to tackle the issues and contribute to finding a solution.

DB Green organises now monthly beach cleanups on several of our local beaches encouraging action from families and individuals and raises awareness through school participation and talks.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation is a leader in marine research and is committed to getting hard science to enable policy change in governments.

Project Kaisei  based in HK & US is funding research into the use of plastics as a source of fuel.

5 Gyres (in collaboration with Algalita) raises awareness in innovative ways and empowers people to do what they can to reduce their plastic footprint.

Also At Discovery College with the Year 2s last week I talked with students for their unit of inquiry on ‘Water – what are our responsibilities and what happens when we use it’  They saw how our plastic usage contributes to water pollution and the effects it has on marine birds and sealife as well as what happens to the plastic when it ends up in the ocean.  They were a great bunch of listeners – very attentive and asked excellent questions.

I am also very lucky to have been involved with the French International School in the last couple of months, despite my lack of French!  The Year 11s are producing an exhibition focusing on the Marine Debris Expedition.  The class have formed small groups/pairs and are presenting a series of posters on topics such Gyres (including a mock up of an aquarium gyre), the effects of plastic on sea birds, marine life and the food chain, the expedition, scientific methods used, cleaning the plastic from the ocean and a map of the expedition route including the areas of debris (from the tsunami and the gyres).  It has been a great experience for me talking with the older students and I have learnt things from them as well.  Their exhibition will also be on display at the school when I return and give a presentation.  I am really looking forward to seeing the end results this week.

Last week I joined the FIS year 8s on their Eco Retreat at Pui O beach.  I was one of 3 speakers leading three 45 minute workshops for the morning.  They did a mini beach cleanup and brought their finds back to the tables for analysis.  The beach we were on was a gazetted government beach so it had actually been cleaned that morning but it didn’t take very long at all to find 100+ pieces of waste.  Over 90% of the rubbish brought back was plastic.  It ranged from lots of cigarette butts, food wrappings, straws, cutlery, bottle lids, bags, medical waste (bandaids), foam from toys and food containers to fishing line and pieces of rope.  We discussed how most of it was designed to be single use but as it is made from plastic it will last for many years rather than the short ‘usage span’.   We also discussed easy ways to reduce plastic usage & wastage.  It was a great way to engage in discussions about how beach activities directly impact our marine ecosystems.

It is very inspiring for me talking with the kids at the schools.  There are always some great thought provoking questions and lots of enthusiasm and there are usually familiar faces in the groups that have been at one or more of the beach cleanups.   Lots of talks are planned in at least 6 schools for my return and I am really looking forward to sharing more information with the students in the new school year.   Please contact me if you would like me to speak at your school.

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