As part of the school curriculum, the Grade 4s at Bishops Preparatory School have to complete a section on water and water pollution as part of their Social Sciences module. Much of the focus of this module is about sewerage treatment and its effects on rivers, but the Grade 4s, some of whom have parents involved in ocean science, wanted to focus more on types of water pollution that they actually play a direct role in. Together with their teacher Mandy Gloak, these kids did something incredible!
The main focus of these kids was on the relationship between plastic and the ocean. The Grade 4s learned about the hazards posed by plastic pollution to sea life, particularly the risk of entanglement. They learned about the "Cut A Loop" programme, aimed at snipping all loops in plastic waste so that they do not pose as serious an entanglement risk should they end up in a waterway. The kids put this into practice by collecting hundreds of plastic bottles and spending a day cutting all the loops.
The Grade 4s also learned about single-use plastic items, eg. coffee cup lids, straws, and shopping bags. These items pose significant environmental risks because of their prevalence, so the kids discussed solutions and came up with alternatives to these items.
The kids also looked at ways to recycle and learned about all the resin codes found on plastic packaging and what they mean. They examined various food wrappers and packaging to figure out what the items were made of, if they could be recycled, and how they should be disposed of.
A "track our trash" activity was done, where the Grade 4s used a map of Cape Town's natural waterways and manmade drainage channels and pipes to work out what would happen to a piece of litter that blew into a drain. Where would it exit into the ocean? How far would it flow to get there? By looking at this map, the kids learned that even inland suburbs are still having a direct impact on the sea.
The class ended off their Social Sciences module by doing an oral presentation to their class about an environmental issue of their choice. Needless to say, ocean plastic was the most popular subject!
It's always a pleasure to see schools being proactive about the environmental challenges facing us today. Plastic pollution is a challenge that has a simple solution, but one that needs the support of everyone - it's great seeing schools all over Cape Town taking a leadership role in the face of this issue, your learners are the future custodians of our oceans (and we think it will be left in good hands).