Beach clean makes an impact

Monday August 27, 2018 Written by Published in Environment
Phil Somerville from Eat Less Plastic and Liam with Papaaroa School students and their new signboard for the beach. 18082417a Phil Somerville from Eat Less Plastic and Liam with Papaaroa School students and their new signboard for the beach. 18082417a

This weekly column is supplied by Te Ipukarea Society. It deals with environmental and conservation issues of interest to the Cook Islands.


Te Ipukarea Society staff teamed up with the Eat Less Plastic team this week as they made presentations to schools on the issue of marine plastics.

Papaaroa, the last school on the visit programme, made a big impact on TIS project officer, Liam Kokaua.

Liam was impressed to see that the students were already taking action into their own hands to combat the marine plastics epidemic currently affecting our oceans, and our health. 

Under the guidance of science teacher Colleen Berry,  school carries out weekly rubbish cleanups along the Papaaroa beach area. Year 7 and 8 students pick up the rubbish one week, alternating with the Year 9 and 10 students whose turn then it is to pick up the rubbish.

In science class, the year 7 and 8 students have been learning about lagoon ecosystems and how they can be affected by marine plastic. They have tied this into the “Canoe is the People” learning programme. Through this programme they have learnt about the idea of guardianship (Kaitiakitanga/Mana Tiaki) of our environment. They also have made model vaka out of repurposed plastic litter.

Years 9 and 10 pupils have sorted and catalogued the litter they have collected off the beach and made graphs to present their findings. Through doing this, during their unit called “We Can’t Eat Plastic Fish”, the students have discoverted that the amount of polystyrene rubbish has increased greatly in recent weeks. In their Chemistry class, the students have been learning about how plastics are made from fossil fuels. They have learned how burning plastic produces harmful toxins into the air, and how this can eventually contribute to the formation of “acid rain” which damages our coral reefs.

In Physics, students have been looking at ocean currents, and how these currents transport plastic waste, and how they can even create the gigantic gyres of plastic waste such as those found in remote areas of the Pacific Ocean.

In Biology, they have learned about animal food chains, and how microplastics are now making their way into human diets through the fish that we eat.

To top it off, the school students have been working on a large sign board which will be erected at Papaaroa Beach.

The sign board says, “We Can’t Eat Plastic Fish”, “Don’t Rubbish our Lagoon” and “Refuse, Reduce, Recycle”.

The sign will come complete with plastic “fish” made out of plastic bottles to emphasise the message. The students have been working with Stan Wolfgram at Te Ara Museum of Cultural Enterprise to learn how to create the fish and they’ve been learning more about environmental issues at the same time.

Te Ipukarea Society congratulates the students of Papaaroa School for being the guardians for the Papaaroa area.

We wish them the best as they continue the fight against plastic waste and hopefully they will inspire others in our community to do the same.

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