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Clean up the mess

Picking plastic bottle out of waterway

Clean up

One summer afternoon in the late 80s, I must have been 8 years old, my two girlfriends and I decided to take a walk to the ‘lagoon’.

What we called the lagoon was a small clearing with a stream running through. The clearing was in the middle of our village but secluded by trees and greenery. It made us feel like we had entered the jungle.

Expecting to enjoy a picnic in our special spot, we were truly disappointed when we found the place covered with rubbish. I remember feeling deeply upset that someone would treat this space with so little respect. Luckily, my practical friend Linda had a brilliant idea. ‘Let’s clean up!’ she suggested and so we did. What started with disappointment, turned into an important learning experience which had an impact on my later life – clearly, otherwise I would not remember it to this day.

This experience led to two essential learnings. Firstly, I realised that the environment must be cared for and that it needs to be protected from destructive forces. Secondly, Linda’s hands-on approach showed me that we are empowered to take an active role when things bother us. At Little Scientists, we promote the development of a sustainability mindset in children and believe in children’s self-efficacy. Perhaps this day was one of these formative events that planted a seed for a life-long passion?
How excited would my 8-year-old self have been to be prompted into taking this learning experience to the next level? Being as excited as I was about cleaning the littered stream, I would certainly have embraced further learning opportunities such as the water purification plant from the Water workshop.

To build a water purification system with children, help them to cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle and turn the bottle upside down with its cap still on. They can now insert a nylon stocking or a coffee filter into the bottle and press it against the sides. They then fill the bottle with three layers: fine sand, small gravel and large gravel. The water purification plant is ready. The children can now explore pouring muddied water into the plastic bottle. Take off the screw cap and let the filtered water slowly drip out of the bottle. What does it look like compared to before? 

Impactful early experiences help to shape our personality and create personal life-long values. Cleaning your local stream, building a water purification system or investigating other ways to protect our environment in a child-led way, could be the spark to ignite the passion for sustainability in the environmentalists of tomorrow.

What sustainability projects and activities has your service engaged in?
Let us know in the comments below

Avatar: Woman with brown eyes and brown hair up in bun
Article author: Heike Hendershot
National Training Manager

With an extensive background in education and a fearless passion for collaborative learning environments, Heike manages the development and implementation of workshop content and supports the team of training facilitators at Little Scientists.

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