Tathra Public School students sort through the different types of marine debris they found at Tathra Beach as part of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre’s ‘Clean Up Your Act!’ program. Eden Public School and the First Eden Sea Scouts will take part in the program in 2015. Photo: Jillian Riethmuller.Combining science and helping the environment with a trip to the beach is a great way to spend a day at school, and Eden Primary School students and the First Eden Sea Scouts will get the chance to do just that from next year.
‘Marine Debris – Clean Up Your Act’ is a new school program run by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre (SCMDC), established thanks to a grant from the IMB Community Foundation.
The program was successfully piloted with a year 3 class from Tathra Public School in terms three and four, with students adopting a section of their local beach to clean up.
Tathra students chose Tathra Beach, near the Surf Lifesaving Club, and spent an hour scouring the beach for every little bit of rubbish, even continuing to clean on the walk back to school.
After the clean-up, students had a class session to count the debris that they found and then enter it into an online database that is run by the Australian Marine Debris Initiative as part of Tangaroa Blue.
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The database was created to enable volunteers and organisations that were running beach clean-up events to also collect data on what they were finding and enter it into a national database on marine debris.
Since 2004, more than 2million pieces of data have been inputted into the Australian Marine Debris Database.
The most commonly found items were cigarette butts and small pieces of plastic.
“There was much more small pieces than the students had originally thought,” SCMDC marine education officer, Jillian Riethmuller said.
“And they were so pleased that they were able to help clean it up and save it from being eaten by fish or birds.”
By collating the data collected by all the students, the centre was able to pinpoint the biggest issue at the local beach, and students used this knowledge to devise ways to reduce marine debris in their area.
A guided session with SCMDC allowed the students the chance to come up with ideas and nut out the possible strategies that they could implement within their school and area.
Ideas came fast and furious from all the students, with some as simple as putting up posters to make people aware of the issue to as big and outrageous as helicopters that run on rubbish instead of fuel.
Students eventually resolved to trial a few ideas at school, such as making putting rubbish in the bin more fun by dressing up the bins, and also making signs that show the danger of marine debris and how long it takes to break down.
The hope is that signs like this could go in near rubbish-prone areas such as wharves and tourist hot spots.
Ms Riethmuller was very proud of how the students took on the program and looks forward to running it with more schools, also including Pambula and Narooma public schools in 2015.
“Hopefully this will become an ongoing program for the schools, where they will regularly go and clean the section of beach that they’re adopting,” she said.
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