By Georgina Maw, Head of Educational Outreach
“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare today.”
This quote resonates with me when I reflect on our educational endeavours. The whole purpose of our workshops, conferences, wild beach schools and assemblies is to inspire children in the present by showing them the real picture: whether that be learning about the types of shells found on our beaches, meeting professionals at the frontier of current action and research, or understanding where the litter we collect from our beaches originates. Our vision is that through children’s eyes of exploration, curiosity and hope we start to plant the seeds for the future. Seeds that might one day keep growing so that they have a whole tree full of marine conservation and local coastal knowledge rooted in the belief that they can make a difference through their actions and voice.
I love seeing the joy as children explore our ‘cities of the sea’ in the intertidal zone, which are brimming with life and then I love hearing the same children passionately describe why they want to protect our local coastal areas and wider seas as they begin to make the connection between cause and effect. Recently, I received news of a child, who had participated in wild beach sessions, and who felt so inspired about looking after our seas that she had in fact made it her mission to clean the beach whilst on holiday. It’s these small steps that show collective awareness and action will make a difference.
However, how do we deliver the current picture without causing anxiety to children? With a huge dollop of hope, balanced with sharing the current efforts and successes of environmental action, and most of all we ask children to act. We ask them to create their own hope for our planet, we share and reflect upon them, and then encourage children to come up with one action that will help them make progress towards their future hope. This was the starting activity for our recent Portsmouth eco-conference, held in June, for secondary schools.
‘ My hope is that there will be less plastic waste on my local beach. I will act on this by joining public beach cleans and getting my own litter picker for when I walk my dog.’Year 8 pupil
‘My hope is that I won’t see as many dog poo bags left on paths near where I live. I will act on this by creating posters, litter picking and writing to my local council enforcement team about it.’Year 7 pupil
Once again, through collective awareness, we demonstrate how our own individual feelings and hopes in response to climate change, plastic pollution or sewage are in fact feelings and hopes which are shared across our communities. This is an incredibly powerful starting point to ignite problem-solving skills and act as a catalyst to creating action. Billie, our youth ambassador, and force to be reckoned with, proudly opened the conference with a powerful reminder that we are all individual pixels but together we are the bigger picture. Billie is an inspiration to other young people with her passion and action regarding reducing plastic waste. We are proud of the journey Billie is on and look forward to seeing where the next year will take her!
The event was centred around the themes of hope, innovation and environmental action and delivered through inspiring workshops and thought-provoking presentations. We were thankful to the following speakers for their time and energy to share their specialist knowledge.
Louise MacCallum, from Blue Marine Foundation, shared the wonderful success and future plans for restoration efforts from across the Solent. The children were captivated by the new oyster beds and facts, such as, did you know that an adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day?
Steve Fletcher, from the University of Portsmouth, shared the innovative work Revolution Plastics are doing to find an enzyme to break down plastic. His passion and knowledge had a strong influence on the attendees and hopefully encouraged those to think about possible future careers based in this area.
HGP Architects, an award-winning local architecture firm, led a presentation and workshop based on sustainable design. The children were fully engaged in creating a sustainable beach hut out of recycled materials. They designed, adapted and built detailed models to include features such as solar panels, nets to collect plastic waste and inbuilt recycling machines- a rewarding experience had by all and some budding architects were noticed!
The conference allowed children and teachers to explore the current picture, think about the future and take away a little ‘plastic-free’ goodie bag, including reusable period pants for those who needed them. As a team, we thrive on delivering successful, thought-provoking events and are thankful to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation for providing the funding to allow this conference to be a success, and to Camber Property Management for letting us use such a brilliant space to hold it.
‘We came away from the event feeling hopeful about the future. The pupils were engaged and even today talked about some of the things they would like to implement in school”Admiral Lord Nelson Teacher
‘It was an exciting experience for our students to hear, learn and participate in activities centred around the environment.’Mayville High School Teacher
I am excited as we approach the next academic year ready to keep moving forward as we continue to deliver the Final Straw Foundation’s mission. Our wild beach school will be adapted to build on the foundations we have laid and I am proud to say that Kate, our educational outreach assistant, has completed her beach leader training. We look forward to meeting new faces and welcoming back familiar faces too!
We look to launch our plastic fantastic station in September, which will be on offer as a workshop to schools. The workshop will allow children to see how we can reuse some plastics by making them into other objects- keep an eye on our socials for news of the launch in September!
Our educational outreach activities are always free. This is because we believe all children should be able to access education. Whether it is an assembly, a conference, wild beach school or a litter pick – they are all pieces of the larger puzzle. A puzzle which contains a bigger picture and it’s this picture that we are starting to build. It won’t be finished in my lifetime but I hope that my actions and the actions of all those we inspire will mean that perhaps my grandchildren will see a world where the oceans are not polluted by plastic or sewage. Where healthy oceans are full of wildlife and we live more sustainably in balance with the planet.
To book a visit to your school, attend a wild beach school session or to be invited to our next eco conference then sign up here to our newsletter.