Drastic Plastic: learn about plastic pollution in the Thames


We’ve all seen the heart-rending images of seabirds and turtles suffering as they get entangled in plastic debris, or eat it mistakenly and then die of hunger. We’ve also been warned that plastic particles are making their way up the food chain and may be present in the fish that we eat.

‘Drastic Plastic’ was developed in response to our observation at the River Thames Boat Project that plastic flows down the Thames unchecked. We work at Teddington Lock, which is the last (or the first) lock on the Thames, so plastic that goes through it flows unchecked into the North Sea. For children who come on board to study their local river, this is an important part of its future and its contribution to global environmental health.thames_debris_V2

‘Drastic Plastic’ is a 45-minute workshop to be held outdoors, on Ham Lands, as part of the popular and timeless ‘School on the River’ day. It is currently available to years 5 and 6 only.

In the Drastic Plastic unit, pupils will:

  •  Share and evaluate what they already know about this issue of marine plastic
  •  Consider what plastic actually is, and what common items are made of it
  •  Collaborate to construct a human-sized map of the river out of rope, and send plastic refuse along it until it reaches the big wide world,
  • See how plastic gets shredded until it can barely be seen
  • See some ‘nurdles’, pre-production plastic pellets, and learn how they get lost in the sea and then washed up on beaches
  • Examine some of the new alternatives to plastic and thinking how they can be part of a global solution to the plastic problem

‘Drastic Plastic’ can be included in School on the River, or Eco-Venturers, or can be delivered as part of a bespoke education event, such as community groups, corporate groups and Family Learning groups. Drastic Plastic is currently only available for upper KS2, that’s years 5 and 6, or 8-year-olds and upwards.

The NC skills exercised in this unit are:bottle_drain_V1

  • geographical understanding
  • numeracy
  • working  and thinking scientifically
  • key physical processes of the earth

Skills not included in the NC, but exercised in this unit are: 

  • collaboration
  • creative thinking
  • critical thinking
  • Futures thinking

If you would like to book Drastic Plastic as part of a School on the River or Eco-Venturers day for your school, please download a booking form here

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