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Y4's 'Plastic Pollution in the Ocean' topic at St Clement's CofE Primary School

Our topic began with obtaining an idea of the pupils’ knowledge and the usual completion of a KWL table (what you Know, what you Want to know and what you have Learnt). We watched Blue Planet II and everyone was hooked from the outset. The topic is emotive but seeing animals at risk from plastic pollution instantly increased the pupils’ awareness of, and interest in, the topic. The familiar and soothing voice of David Attenborough explaining the extent of plastic in the ocean, and the problems this is posing, helped to motivate the pupils and complemented my planning.  From this, we explored why the oceans matter and this captured new learning as we considered the number of livelihoods dependant on the ocean and the role the ocean plays in the water cycle and as a provider of our oxygen.  


We then examined how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world and completed a timeline of the evolution of plastic, which gave pupils an insight as to where events happen in history. We discovered when the plastic bag was created and when the mandatory charge was imposed due to unsustainability.


The pupils had an increased awareness of Greta Thunberg and enjoyed exploring her views on environmental issues and those of other influencers such as David Attenborough. They then began to develop their own ideas. We unpicked Greta's Instagram posts and discussed the reasons she has such a huge following. 


Following a visit to Sidmouth, Devon, in July, Year 4 pupils were introduced to a group of volunteers who conduct regular beach cleans. We looked at the measures Sidmouth Plastic Warriors take to protect their beach and water from plastic pollution and suggested ways that a locality could be changed and improved. From this, we had a Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) lesson on why there is strength in a group. Following this, we created our own warning signs for the beach to increase plastic awareness and encourage people to take their litter home.


One particular highlight of this sequence of learning was having Emily Hobson-Martin, author of children’s books about pollution in the ocean, join us via Zoom to give a virtual reading of her book and to answer our many questions. It was so lovely to see the children light up when Emily explained about life at the seaside and this brought home to me how important it is to expose them to life outside their city. 


Our topic drew to a close with the making of a sustainable bag in Art. Meeting the objectives of environmental issues, the children made recycled bags from old t-shirts. Some plans had to be adapted due to COVID-19 restrictions, but to see every child take part in a fashion parade proudly carrying their own bag was wonderful and, at the end of the day, they used their bags to carry their belongings home.


This relevant topic introduced the dangers of not being able to recycle certain products and allowed children to explore the opinions of others and their own ideas in detail.