Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Pupils’ anti-plastic project wins environmental science contest

Pupils’ anti-plastic project wins environmental science contest

A PROJECT encouraging people to use less plastic won this year’s Henley Schools Environmental Science Competition.

Year 3 pupils at Valley Road Primary School spent months investigating the dangers posed by plastic pollution and producing a display outlining potential solutions.

Theirs was one of seven entries to the eighth annual competition, which is organised by environmental campaign group Henley in Transition and sponsored by the town council and Henley in Bloom.

Quinn Gordon, Zac Marett, Frances Sadler, Daisy Holmes, Freya Vines and Jack Clements, representing their year group, were presented with the trophy and a £300 cheque for the school during an awards ceremony at the River & Rowing Museum.

All the teams exhibited their projects and chatted about them with visitors including Henley Mayor Ken Arlett, Deputy Mayor David Eggleton and Patrick Fleming, of Henley in Transition.

Also present were judges Maureen Smith, a former deputy headteacher and science teacher at Trinity Primary School in Henley, and transition group member Katrina Judge, who holds an environmental science qualification.

The Valley Road entry featured a small cuddly toy turtle “trapped” in fragments of plastic with small paper flags outlining the damage that plastic can inflict on wildlife and habitats.

It listed six common items for which people should find reusable replacements: cotton buds, toothbrushes, coffee cups, straws, drinking bottles and shopping bags.

It also explained how long some plastic items take to decay, from plastic bags, which typically take 20 years, to mineral water bottles, which can take up to 450.

Pupils researched the issue as part of their homework and listened to talks by Ilona Livarski, a member of Henley Town Council’s parks service team.

They wrote to their parents asking them to put less plastic in their lunchboxes and gave talks to their fellow pupils in assembly.

The project was devised by class teacher Lauren Nottage, who said the waste plastic problem was increasingly recognised and it was important to educate children about it.

She said: “We’re not doing enough about the situation generally and the school was sending bags and bags of waste from packed lunches to landfill.

“I’m so pleased that the children won as they worked so hard and became really passionate about the issue. They’re far more aware of how much plastic they’re using and, to be honest, so am I. They’re now picking up litter without being asked and Frances has even asked her friends to make donations to a plastic reduction charity instead of giving her birthday presents.

“The competition is brilliant because the primary curriculum is often skewed towards maths and literacy with science getting shoehorned into whatever time is left.

“This is an amazing opportunity to get them enthusiastic about the subject and to take ownership of their work.”

The runner-up was Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Greys Hill, which received £200. It was represented by year 5 pupils Claudia Rosado, Kiara De Sousa, Beatrice Bertioli-Smith, Niamh Quinn, Ana-Sophia Pestana, Olivia Samyui-Adams, Keira Hedger, Lucy Jean-Jean and Olivia Grant.

Their project, which tied in with the children’s studies on the topic “healthy planet, healthy me”, looked at the effects of climate change on food crops and ways of reducing packaging for school lunches.

They grew tomato plants at different temperatures to show how they fail to thrive in conditions that are too hot and dry and put their specimens on display.

They wrote up their findings with colourful illustrations and drew up a scheme for reducing plastic which they presented during assembly.

The pupils counted the amount of plastic wrapping being discarded every lunchtime and will count it again later this year to see if the campaign has had an effect.

Teacher Jackie Park said: “We’re delighted to have done so well. This has really helped the children to understand scientific investigation and writing persuasively.

“The children have really loved it and the judges said their enthusiasm was really noticeable.” A class from Rupert House School in Bell Street investigated Henley’s litter problem and built a miniature model of the town centre in which they gave each street a mark out of 10 for cleanliness.

Another class looked into the town’s air pollution problem.

Students from St Mary’s School in St Andrew’s Road investigated the effects of sound pollution using decibel meters.

Children from Shiplake Primary School carried out a garden project and pupils at Sonning Common Primary School investigated the impact of batteries on flowers.

All participants received a seedling for a fruit tree or bush which they will plant in their school grounds.

Councillor Arlett told the children: “From what I can make out, you young people are going to be the saviours of this planet.

“Us older people have made a bit of a mess and, although we’re doing what we can to correct it, you are going to have to push this message as hard as you can.

“You’re doing fantastic work and I would like to thank the organisers of this competition for making it possible for you to display it.”

Mr Fleming said: “All the projects were of such a high standard that it was tough to decide but the two winners stuck out in the end.

“As well as the scientific aspects, we were looking for signs of engagement and Valley Road’s entry excelled in that area, as did Sacred Heart’s.

“We would encourage the pupils to come back next year and hope that others might be inspired to take part as well.”

Mrs Smith, who retired in 2016, said: “There was an excellent variety of projects which were child-centred but still had an impact on the wider community, which we were very pleased with.

“One or two schools dropped out, which was unfortunate, but we are hopeful that they will take part next year and that there might be a display at the museum so that more people can see what the children have done and take some lessons from it.”

The competition was also sponsored by scientific consultancy Quintessa, of Newtown Road, Henley, the Thamesfield Youth Association and the Henley Educational Trust.

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