One of the strands of anti-litter work that we are aiming to tackle with Off the Ground is education: changing the attitude and behaviour of the next generation. We would like to thank Sarah Barker, one of our regular Community Clean Up volunteers, for inviting us to her school and classroom today to work with two groups of students at Queen’s Crescent School. It was incredible to see the amount of creativity and effort the teachers have already gone through to instil a positive environmental message in their students. Managing to do this while maintaining discipline and a safe learning environment … I have to admit I don’t know how much primary school teachers are paid, but whatever it is, it should be doubled.
Our activities with the students started by getting them thinking with a magnet board exercise. Each student gets a litter magnet to put on one of three boards: a rubbish bin, a recycling bin, and a patch of grass. We then talked through where the items should go. In light of the recent survey showing that rubbish placed elsewhere is not considered litter, we also made sure to spell out that it’s still litter even if it’s in a tree or bush, or left on a wall or bench.
Next came the most exciting part for the kids – they got to use the litter pickers to collect actual rubbish. Both classes managed to collect a surprising amount of litter in a short time, and buying more of the Helping Hands “Graptors” is definitely something we will need to do this year to make sure everyone has a chance to have a go.
Afterwards, we had a brief chat about what they found and why they think people litter: “They’re lazy.” “They can’t be bothered to use a bin.” “They’re naughty.” “There aren’t enough bins around.” This then led into the final activity, asking students to design their own bin. It was great to see the ideas they came up with, such as the bin that said “Mission accomplished” when it was used or the one that would light up with rainbow colours.
This was also a learning experience for us, giving us a chance to see a child’s thought process in action. What jumped out at me is that children see things very much as black and white: littering is naughty. Full stop. They don’t try to justify the behaviour or view it as someone else’s responsibility to take care of. Instead, they recognise that it’s bad for the environment, bad for wildlife, and just shouldn’t be done. As these students get older, they’ll realise that there are many shades of grey in the world, but I hope that they will always recognise that littering shouldn’t be one of them.
Thank you again to Miss Barker, Mrs. Clifton, and all of the Queen’s Crescent School students we worked with today for showing how much they care about cleaning up our community. I hope we can have as much success with getting the grown ups in Chippenham on board.