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A busy day for Upstream Battle education

A blog post by Joe Oxley-Glenister

Joe Oxley-Glenister
Education and Learning Officer

Posted 31/10/2022

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Last week Joe, Education and Learning Officer for our Upstream Battle campaign, visited three different establishments in Glasgow to lead sessions all about source to sea litter to three very different audiences. Here he talks about his day, the people he met, what they learned, and their commitment to tackle #Source2Sea litter.

Pupils from Riverbank Primary School on the Clyde Walkway footbridge during their Upstream Battle litter survey

My day started at Riverbank Primary School where I met up with P5/6 pupils to conduct a litter survey from the school gate all the way down to Cuningar Loop park. The school is located very close to the banks of the River Clyde in Dalmarnock, with the popular Clyde Walkway passing just behind the school. Working in small groups, the pupils chose a 100m stretch of path between the school and the Clyde Walkway to complete an Upstream Battle litter survey. They recorded all the litter they could see and were amazed at how much there was, especially hidden right under the hedge, where it had been blown by the wind. One of the pupils acutely noted that “sometimes it is so hard to see pieces of plastic...if you don’t see it to pick it up it will end up in the river!”

As some pupils filled in the survey sheets, others a ‘sweeper team’ picked up the litter after it had been recorded. By the end of the 40-minute activity the pupils had filled five bin bags, with plastic confectionary wrappers being the most commonly found item. We discussed why this might be the case and the pupils thought that some of these might have come from the school playground, or from eating snacks on the way into and out of school. The activity really inspired the pupils to take action to reduce litter in and around their school's grounds and they have pledged to make posters about putting litter in the bin to be displayed in the playground to help tackle #Source2Sea litter. 

The next stop on my tour was Silverdale Nursery, less than a mile away. Unfortunately, the rain had started so the planned litter pick was called off. Instead, the children took part in an inside activity to learn about litter and its impact on the environment. We first looked at pictures of animals that live on land and in the sea and discussed what effect litter could have on them and their homes. We then talked about what humans can do to change this, one of the suggestions was to tell people about the animals and not to hurt them. Raising awareness is a vital component of behaviour change, so the children helped make a collage about marine litter using waste materials from the classroom. The children created their artwork using paper and card from the recycling bin, and waste foil and bubble wrap. The children hope to finish their artwork this term and display it in the main entrance of the nursery for everyone to enjoy and understand how to tackle source to sea litter.  

Pupils recording their litter during the litter pick

It was getting towards the end of the school day, but I had one last visit to make - Hillhead High School in Kelvinbridge. It was to attend an Eco-Fair for more than 80 S1 pupils, who plan to complete their John Muir Award in the Autumn term. Keep Scotland Beautiful and representatives from other local conservation organisations, including the RSPB, Parklife, Glasgow Botanic Gardens and Children’s Wood, were invited to talk about the work of their charity and the importance of conserving local ‘wild places’.

The pupils were very engaged in the discussions around how to look after their local environment, particularly about the pathways of litter from land to sea. When asked afterwards what they had learnt at the eco-fair, the pupils’ responses reflected this, with one saying: “I learned how cigarettes make their way from pavements into the ocean and that lots of rubbish is flushed down toilets [which is] why plastic cotton buds were banned.

Following a very successful visit to the Eco-Fair, Keep Scotland Beautiful has been asked to facilitate a series of activities for the pupils to complete their Discovery Award. I, alongside other members of our education team, will lead four sessions during the Autumn term, engaging with over 40 pupils and supporting them in conserving a nearby area along the River Kelvin by undertaking litter surveys, clean-ups and wildlife conservation activities. We are very excited to see what a difference this will make to the area, so keep an eye on our social media for updates. 

I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to pupils at the Eco-Fair, sharing information on Upstream Battle and Climate Action Schools

As the school bell sounded and the Eco-Fair drew to a close, I reflected on what had been a very busy, but very rewarding, day with more than 120 young people reached, in three establishments, across three age ranges using three key approaches to address #Source2Sea litter – Raising Awareness, Gathering Information and Inspiring Action! 

I am looking forward to hearing how all the pupils take forward what they learnt and to supporting Hillhead High School this autumn.  

All our education activities, including Upstream Battle, now fit under our Climate Action Schools framework. Visit our website if you are interested in finding out more about our work in this area.

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