Looking out of over the beautiful Clachtoll beach in the last light of the day in Sutherland just a few miles from where I have been leading a day’s activities examining beach litter and its dangers. I muse on how the day has gone with 30 children in Lochinver & Stoer Primary Schools working together.
The bright & warm weather helped out with our morning on the beach as we sorted & catalogued the litter we found between the low tide line and the strand line.
The MCS survey sheets proved too detailed for us to classify the objects we found in the time available, so we began to group objects together under the main sections such as plastics e.g. rope became one sub section, rather than 4 according to diameters of rope.
We chose to examine the shore line of White Beach as it’s nearest to the school, approximately 50m long facing North. Both the teachers and pupils response upon their initial inspection was that there was very little litter there. For me those are the most useful beaches to look at as I know how misleading that initial scan can be.
By the end of the morning our survey sheets and evidence bags were full, the different objects were identified & recorded on the sheets. Returning to school our found objects were labelled according to material types and displayed. Each group discussed the dangers that the materials pose to wildlife.
During the afternoon materials found were counted up and observations about what they were written on postcards to be sent to me back at the studio. Each pupil created their own postcard image by capturing a microscope image from their examination of plastic rope fibre, small pieces of glass, plastic, polystyrene that they had collected.
The microscope work caught everyone’s interest. Focusing on the tiny fragments of litter became a hugely exciting activity as the fibres and a variety of materials were illuminated and magnified to new proportions.
After the days work I discussed with the Lochinver teacher Mrs Mason, whether using a microscope is actually a useful way to illustrate the point that small organisms such as sand hoppers, have been found to have microscopic particles of plastic in them. She thought that the projected internet pictures of the sand hoppers together with the few they could see in the tank on their tables did actually register with the children. She also felt that she would be able to revisit the link in follow-up work which might include writing poetry, an idea which I look forward to reading.
Please send me copies! Thanks to Romany Garnett from SWT and Andy Summers bio-diversity officer for the Loch Inver and Assynt for helping with the mornings survey.