Year 1 of 2017 participated in the Youth Against Marine Debris Challenge to learn about the impact of rubbish on the marine environment. Their efforts have now been acknowledged and utilised in a case study published this year for the Australian Association for Environmental Education.

On a field trip to Oxley and Town Beaches last September, students gathered and recorded data for the Challenge. Back at school they interpreted data and made some of their own conclusions about marine debris. The idea came to Year 1 Teachers to make their Geography and Maths unit more realistic and investigate real-life issues close to our hearts. Students had all heard and seen images of turtles and birds suffering at the hands of plastic pollution. This challenge gave students an ideal opportunity to do some real investigative maths work for a real purpose.

Back at school, sorting the rubbish they found was a massive task. They found some random things like a thong, some undies and a shopping trolley! However, the biggest issues facing the river and ocean in Port Macquarie were definitely cigarette butts, straws and soft plastics in various stages of degradation.

The students were appalled that this waste ends up in our waterways as it affects all forms of marine life. Let alone breaking down into minute pieces to be consumed by fish and birds. They all agreed that they need to be more proactive in how they use plastic and dispose of it appropriately.