The initiative for a project that immersed our students at San Clemente High School, Mayfield, in custodianship for the environment came when attending the 2015 Independent Education Union Sustainability Conference. A significant point of discussion was Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si’ and his focus on the earth, acknowledging that today’s environmental issues have been ignored for too long.
Subsequent discussions with the co-founder of "Take 3, a clean beach initiative", Novocastrian Tim Silverwood, and some passionate teachers, really cemented my belief that our students belong to the generation which needs to take steps to address problems such as pollution, over-fishing and climate change.
Did you know that so much plastic is consumed by marine organisms that no seafood can be classified as organic? This fact helped form the basis of my project. While researching, I discovered a collaborative initiative run by Newcastle City Council and Hunter Local Land Services whereby students create educational video advertisements and enter a competition to be broadcast on NBN television.
This task formed the basis of a larger project which involved students designing a social media campaign to educate society. Students are immersed in social media in everyday life and I wanted to show students how effective it can be to spread their cause. Students spent a day cleaning Throsby Creek to experience marine debris first-hand and discuss some of the impacts of pollution. I wanted students to learn how to solve problems, rather than just recount issues in an essay, so I chose the more practical approach of designing a social media campaign.
Students worked incredibly hard throughout Term 2, and were rewarded, gaining first and second places in the competition! The winning entry, produced by Darcy Pigner, Indiana Kearney and Ireland Manusiu of Year 10, focused on micro beads. Micro beads are tiny pieces of plastic in many brands of exfoliating creams, body washes and cosmetics. Many people do not realise these products contain plastic as the ingredients list uses scientific names for chemicals rather than colloquial terms such as plastic. Plastic micro beads are often labelled as Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PET). These are the plastics from which your drink bottles, lunch boxes and plastic bags are made. The unfortunate fact is that these tiny plastic pieces are washed into our oceans, consumed by organisms in the food chain and eventually end up on our plates.
“In marine studies we've been learning about the consequences of incorrect rubbish disposal and how it is affecting our oceans. Although we were aware of what was happening, a lot of people probably weren't so our aim was to spread awareness of how even the smallest of things can have a huge impact on our environment,” said Darcy Pigner.
Educational tasks like this can prepare our students to take the lead in tackling the problems inherited from earlier generations...including my own.