Engaging young people with our Beachwatch Beach Clean and Litter survey programme has been an on-going challenge for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Central to the programme is the Great British Beach Clean, held to coincide with the International Coastal Clean Up on the 3rd weekend of September each year. This timing far from ideal for schools – not only because of the unreliable weather but largely because it’s the beginning of a new school year. It’s a big ask of teachers to take their new class out to a beach, an environment traditionally seen as fraught with danger.
We knew we had to make beach cleaning more accessible to schools so, with support from Waitrose, MCS piloted a new approach this summer – Cool Seas Clean Up, a brand-new beach clean challenge for schools which was held in May/June when the weather (one hopes!) should be better, curriculum content has largely been covered and schools are looking for enjoyable end of year activities.
More than just a beach clean, Cool Seas Clean Up provided an opportunity for schools to take part in learning outside the classroom and gave young people first-hand experience of the highly topical issues of littering, plastic pollution and the impact our throw-away society has on us all. By gathering data through the litter survey, they also took part in one of the UK’s largest citizen science programmes.
Each event included an additional activity (a Microplastic Hunt, Sea Shore Safari or Beach Art, depending on the location) designed to help young people connect with each other and the natural environment. Schools were also provided with a suite of resources to support learning, including workshops to run before and after the event, as well as links to a range of online resources.