Year 7s investigate plastic at Slimbridge
Over the weekend of Friday 8 to Sunday 10 November 2019, 35 Year 7 pupils took part in a residential trip to Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. The aim of the weekend visit was to explore the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans and to work collaboratively in developing sustainable solutions from the perspective of Island Nations in the Pacific. For the 35 pupils who took part in the weekend it was also an opportunity to experience a Deer Park residential visit and to work alongside new people from their year group.
F R I D A Y
After a day of lessons at school and a short journey to Wild Goose Lodge, Slimbridge, our pupils settled into their rooms and had the opportunity to talk to their roommates before the evening activities begun.
Our first session was all about Plastic fantastic? During the activity the Year 7s, in teams of four or five, had to identify how plastic compares to other goods in terms of its biodegradability. This activity introduced the pupils to why plastic has become such an issue on our planet. To practise for the debate on Saturday, the teams then had some time to prepare a one minute presentation on the costs and benefits of using plastic. These presentations were made by all 8 groups before being asked questions from the other groups on the social, economic and environmental impacts.
After all this hard work our first feast of the weekend was served: lasagne and garlic bread, following by crumble and custard or ice cream. The learning did not stop after dinner as Year 7s had the opportunity to watch 'Blue Planet II' and drink hot chocolate, with or without marshmallows! Before getting ready for lights out there was a bedtime story - a message in a bottle from an inhabitant in Hawaii, asking for the support of Year 7 in solving the plastic pollution problem facing the Pacific Ocean.
S A T U R D A Y
An early start on Saturday morning meant a leisurely breakfast and we made our packed lunches for our trip to Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust Centre. The weather was miserable – cold and wet – but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits and we headed to the centre for a tour, talks and workshops to find out more about the importance of wetlands to our planet and the pressures they face.
Sue Belej, Learning Manager, Slimbridge: "Several of the volunteers have come to see me to say how polite the pupils were, especially when entering and exiting the Observation Tower. From my point of view, the pupils are a credit to the school for pushing on in adverse weather conditions. They didn’t give up and made the most of their time with me and the wider visit - it was so lovely to see their enthusiasm and interest. A big thank you to you and your staff team as well for helping me with the session."
Following our workshops and collection of data on wetlands, we headed back to the lodge. Hot drinks were definitely in order and we ate our packed lunches, drank hot chocolate and changed into dry warm clothes! Once we had warmed up, we got back to the task at hand, which was to respond to the message in the bottle and to put together policies on helping reduce plastic pollution. The teams worked together using infographics and found out the importance of evidence in informing arguments. The teams then worked tirelessly to formulate their presentations for the debate.
Following a Model UN format, the teams represented 8 nations: Australia, Fiji, Micronesia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The level of debate was phenomenal, with innovative ideas linked to scuba divers collecting plastic, ecobricks being created from waste plastic, fishing quotas, ecotourism, increasing cost of fishing line and a tourist tax to invest in sustainable solutions. The Learning Power Approach was clear with lots of opportunities for resilience, resourcefulness, reciprocity and reflection.
Despite the pupils wanting to continuing past 7.45pm, another well earned feast - nachos, dips and jacket potatoes - was ready! After our meal we got settled in for our movie night; no space for hot chocolate or popcorn though!
S U N D A Y
Our final activity before leaving the lodge was a Laughter Yoga session with Mrs Dovey-Walker and Miss Lillington. Laughter Yoga is a great way to manage stress. The session involved lots of games, songs and, obviously, laughter. The 'free laughter' session at the end was just brilliant to hear, before going into some meditation and time to reflect on a very busy weekend.
After last minute tidying up and an opportunity to reflect on whether individual goals had been met, it was time to say goodbye to the lodge and head back to Deer Park for 1pm. It was a fantastic weekend and the Year 7 Pupils have set the bar high for future debates and I have confidence that they are the problem solvers of the future.
Miss Lillington, Associate Assistant Head
"This trip has been awesome! I have been awesome and everyone else has been awesome. My voice hurts from all the amazing things I have been talking about and especially the Laughter Yoga. I have met quite a few new people and got to know other people better. If I had to choose one thing to be my favourite, it would probably be either the LY session or the Model United Nations debate where I met some new people in my group. The food has been great and so have all of the activities. Thank you Miss Lillington, Miss Crouch and Mr Ferne for such an amazing experience." Stan, Year 7
"Across two jam-packed days our pupils displayed incredible resilience and brilliance! They were outstanding during the wet and windy morning at Slimbridge and the quality of the debate on Saturday evening was among the best I have ever heard from pupils. It was a pleasure to spend the weekend with such brilliant young people and such committed, incredible staff." Mr Ferne, Humanities Team Leader
"I have had a brilliant time this weekend. I have learnt a lot about what problems the world has and how we can stop them. My favourite part about this trip was probably going to Slimbridge and learning more about the wetlands and the lakes and the birds. Moreover, I really liked it when we were different countries and we had to say what we were going to do to make the country better. It was a little bit heart breaking when no-one voted for us but that is how we improve. So overall I would rate my weekend 10/10 = 100% amazing! I made a lot of new friends – people I have never spoke too before. The trip was fantastic." Summer, Year 7
"When I visited the Year 7s on Saturday afternoon, they were busy working on preparations for their presentations, drawing information from a variety of sources that they had available. It was great to see the teamwork that had developed between them and the determination they held for ensuring they produced the best possible work they could. They were a credit to the school." Mrs Lang, Head of School