Shetland Notes 4: Learning

A big aim of mine is to inspire young people to creatively tackle the massive environmental issue of plastic pollution in our marine and coastal environments.

Pupils in Shetland each year take part in the great Da Voar Redd Up spring litter pick and so know only too well the size of the problem and how much effort it takes to collect and carry hundreds of bags of litter from remote beaches.  Last week 70 Scalloway primary pupils cleaned Burick Beach a mile west of the school they collected 363 bags of bruck (rubbish) off the beach approximately 100m long.

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Jane Outram (environmental officer for the Shetland Amenity Trust) & myself have now begun to deliver three educational workshops across Shetland. Each workshop begins with an observational session on a beach near to the school. The outside learning element of the day long workshops fitting well with many of the schools, as writ on the wall at Nesting Primary School

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We are criss-crossing the isles to deliver 3 different workshops devised for different ages across the Primary and Higher School years with the aim of looking at how we can tackle the litter before it arrives on our beaches, so Shetland’s  children’s children won’t have to collect hundreds of bags of rubbish each year.

school workshop locations (2)

We have had an amazing response over 14 schools will be taking part, including the outer isles. Pupils taking part will also complete a questionnaire developed and written by researchers Lynette Robertson, Agnes Patuano and Reyhaneh Mozaffar so we can assess the benefit of our creative approach to investigating  beach litter and how we can help to reduce plastics in the environment. So far we have delivered a training session to members of Shetland Environmental Education Partnerships (ShEEP) an environmental project which will continue to help schools deliver the workshops on in future years.

LAP Edu Pack 2   LAP Edu Pack 3

Our first ‘Close Examination’ into the micro plastics of our beaches was carried out by lower high pupils of Aith School, who after taking a selection of particle samples from their local beach, used simple separation techniques to discover the variety of forms that plastic particles take. Using electronic magnification identification of the types and possible sources of the particles was discussed.

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Using projected images of  drawings of sand hoppers, the smallest organisms known to ingestion micro fibres, we began to experiment with ways of visually making the links between the ingestion of  micro plastics by marine organisms, the related hazards particularly to birds and mammals. The pupils and biology and art teachers now plan to explore this connection further through graphics.  I look forward to seeing the work!

Year 7 pupils enthusiastically took up the roles of a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team, on the western end of Burick Beach to collect evidence to carry out a ‘Return to Sender’ workshop. Back in the art room our team eagerly and thoroughlyscrutinised their evidence to build up a detailed product profile.

DSCF9913   DSCF9923   DSCF9919 evidence board

Each Crime Scene Investigation team set about interrogating the litter items to learnas much as possible about the type of material it was made from,who manufacturered the product, the retailer involved, plus  recycling symbols and anti-littering information etc.

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With this information pupils are now composing highly visual letters, FaceBook messages and Tweets to be sent shortly to manufacturers/retailers to ask for their help in reducing packaging, encouraging recycling and investing in  research into biodegradable products to help them keep their beach free of their products. Follow the blog to see their work and manufacturers responses

A cross age group of Outer Isle School pupils from Foula, Fetlar, the Skerries and Fair Isle visiting mainland Shetland searched for ‘Future Fossils’ amongst the Voxter shoreline stones. The children took part in 2 full sessions collecting and examining rock samples,  and then excitedly broke open the fossil pebbles to reveal a variety of common objects found on shorelines all around Shetland.

observation drawing rocks & FF Voxter magnifying  Voxter timeline Voxter

Later they took time to carefully work out how long litter items such as plastic bottle tops, gun wads, balloons and ropes might last into the future and considered this in context of the time line of the world, Shetlands geology and their own existence having put their names and birth dates onto the line.  A powerful days learning outside, together. I look forward to meeting all of these children in the interactive laboratory that I am designing for the exhibition at Da Gadderie.

Special interactive school event at the museum on Thursday 27th October

Many thanks to Awards for All , Zero Waste Scotland and North Link Ferries for enabling this educational part of the project to  be devised and facilitated .

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