By Julia Wade
With increasing worldwide reporting on the devastating effects plastic waste has on oceans and marine animals, a group of local schoolchildren decided to find out what it was like for themselves, and took a dip in a pool of plastic.
More than 120 seven to 10-year-old Mangawhai Beach School [MBS] students took the plunge on March 23, after watching videos by ‘Young Ocean Explorers’ as part of a learning experience during the recent Sea Week, March 3-11.
Children were asked to each bring a clean plastic item from home for the exercise.
MBS Year 3 teacher and organiser of the swim, Aimee Kruger, says by swimming with plastic the students made connections between hearing about plastic in the ocean and experiencing it for themselves.
“Students were shocked to see that plastic in oceans was real,” she says. “Rooms 10 and 17 then decided to make our inquiry for Term 2 ‘How can we as MBS students protect our oceans?’ We did the plastic swim as a jump into our inquiry and invited Rooms 4, 5 and 7 to join us.”
Students imagined themselves as ocean animals in the water from whales, dolphins, seals and sharks, and once back on dry land, wrote about the experience from the animal’s perspective.
The swim had an obvious impact on the children, inducing a range of empathic comments: ‘Hard for the sea animals to breathe under all the plastic’ and ‘doesn’t feel nice for the ocean animals as the ocean is dying because of our rubbish’ as well as ‘it’s sad because fish get trapped and can’t escape. It didn’t feel nice as students, imagine how the animals feel’.
Children also included some sensible advice for humans: ‘Pick up seven pieces of rubbish everytime you go to the beach’, ‘use less plastic and recycle rubbish’, ‘find a way to reuse plastic instead of throwing it away’, ‘make your own bags out of t-shirt so you don’t need to use plastic ones’ and ‘use less plastic, be a clean kiwi’.
Kruger says when the Year 3 students cleared the pool of plastic, it was ‘a big eye opener’ as once stacked the pile looked a lot larger than when spread in the water.
“Students went home with a better understanding about plastic in our oceans and parents of Room 17 children said they thought the swim was ‘awesome’,” Kruger says. “Mangawhai is proactive with promoting ‘plastic free’ but how can we get the message out there for other communities or countries? I’d hate for the next generation to miss out on the opportunities that we have because plastic is killing off ocean life.”
Dodging and ducking around plastic, students get an idea of what it might be like for animals swimming in the world’s waters.
“MANGAWHAI IS PROACTIVE WITH PROMOTING ‘PLASTIC FREE’ BUT HOW CAN WE GET THE MESSAGE OUT THERE FOR OTHER COMMUNITIES OR COUNTRIES?”