Time for a new offering!


Following a very thought-provoking and topical presentation given by Anthony Barlow at GlosGeog’s virtual Primary Geography Teach Meet entitled ‘Plastic Fantastic!‘ (https://create2inspire.co.uk/2024/04/23/glosgeogs-virtual-primary-teach-meet-is-a-big-hit/), I approached Rhianna Davies-Smith at Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/) to see if we might be able to incorporate some of the ideas and messages into a new virtual offering.

After much discussion, it was decided to trial a week long project with primary schools; a half day workshop at the beginning of the week and a half hour showcase on the Friday afternoon with time in between for teachers and pupils to participate in a sustainable art challenge. Following plenty of research, making contact with experts in their chosen field and creating the necessary accompanying resources, we were finally ready to roll out our first virtual events this week.

On board today to explore the question, ‘How can we make plastic fantastic?‘, were nearly 90 Year 5 pupils and their teachers from Paddock Wood Primary Academy in Tonbridge, Kent (https://paddockwoodprimaryacademy.org.uk/). After a formal welcome and introductions, it seemed appropriate to launch Digimap for Schools to locate everybody (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/roam/map/schools); never miss an opportunity to develop pupils’ (and teachers’) place and locational knowledge! I then shared the learning objectives and format for the week ahead.

Next up was Nanou Blair Gould, our real-life explorer! Nanou has travelled to the High Arctic Archipelago by tall ship.  Among many extraordinary things, she has witnessed the effects of global warming and impacts of plastic pollution first-hand.  Nanou was so invigorated by the adventure, e.g. the people; life outdoors; the sense of purpose, that she rejoined the ship, working among the small crew for almost four months.  She talked about her Arctic experience and answered the youngsters’ questions confidently and comprehensively.

Questions to Nanou:

  • What made you want to help the most with global warming?
  • What did you eat when you were there?
  • What was the favourite thing that you did?
  • What were the most fascinating animals that you saw?
  • What attracted you to the Philip Pullman book?
  • What was the most jaw-dropping sight you saw?
As an artist, Nanou truly appreciated the colours of the Arctic.
A sustainable means of exploring the Arctic.
Such visible, and worrying, changes within the space of three years.
The result of a clean-up on two small beaches; quite astounding.
Nanou’s favourite part of her adventure; seeing the Northern Lights.

Afterwards, we put pupils in the hot-seat and Rhianna challenged them to a number of higher-order questions. Lively discussions ensued in the hall, with pupils responses then shared via the chat feed or by the teacher unmuting their microphone.

Before we had a short break, I revisited a couple of Nanou’s photographs relating to the clean-up that was undertaken on two small beaches. The amount of material gathered was quite astonishing and the labels revealed that this was not waste generated within the Arctic, but that it had actually travelled some distance. I explained about the ocean currents operating within the Arctic and the role they have to play in contributing to plastic pollution within the region.

There was no sitting still after break! Pupils were asked to consider the question, ‘Is plastic fantastic?‘ and position themselves along the continuum line set up in the hall. Individuals were asked to explain why they had placed themselves where they had too, either by their teacher or ourselves. All were able to justify their position fully.

A true or false style quiz was used to determine how much pupils’ knew about plastic. As the answers were revealed, further information was drip-fed so that any misconceptions were eradicated and students’ understanding was enhanced.

Eduardo Jiménez, Director of Technology at Colgate Palmolive and an advocate for using waste to produce artwork, also gave up his precious time to address our audience this morning. Pupils listened and watched intently and gained inspiration for our later sustainable art challenge. They had so many questions for Eduardo afterwards too!

Questions to Eduardo:

  • Do you get lots of new tools for your birthday to use to make your art?
  • How do you get your ideas for your art?
  • Has anybody criticised you?
  • How long does it take to make one piece of art?
  • What materials are your favourite to use?
  • Have you ever injured yourself picking up trash?
  • Do you think the beach will ever be clear of trash?
A man with a mission!
A positive that came out of lockdown during Covid-19.
Plenty of tips shared with pupils and teachers.
So inspiring!
Eduardo’s efforts have even become a local news story!

I showcased an example of a display that had been created by Key Stage 2 pupils and teachers at Churchdown Village Junior School in Gloucestershire (https://www.churchdownvillage-jun.gloucs.sch.uk/). I encouraged the children to think about the 3Rs (reduce; reuse; recycle) too and if there are any other Rs that we should consider. Thereafter, I provided a brief explanation of the extended waste hierarchy (https://theconversation.com/recycling-can-be-confusing-but-its-getting-simpler-68063 ).

We were excited to launch our sustainable art challenge, which pupils and teachers will continue to work on together for the remainder of the week.

We reconvened with pupils and teachers towards the end of the week to see the ‘real thing’ and hear about what they chose to do, plus what materials they decided to use and why. Participating classes’ final designs can be viewed below. Well done to all involved!

Pupils were also given some time to reflect and complete the below activity. Individuals were invited to come to the front and share their learning and proposed actions with us; wow, so much had been absorbed and thought given to what they might do next to reduce their carbon footprint and ensure the sustainability of our planet. If all of their pledges are successful, then our planet will definitely have a brighter future.

Teachers were also requested to fill out an online evaluation form with pupils; pupil and staff voice are important and enables us to perfect our offering.

Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ included:

It’s appalling to see how much plastic is produced around the world.

I agree that all children got lots of knowledge and loved being creative. We look forward to the goodies!

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