Students ready to clean up their act

Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre marine education officer, Jillian Riethmuller, with the grant certificate from the IMB Community Foundation.

Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre marine education officer, Jillian Riethmuller, with the grant certificate from the IMB Community Foundation.

Given a choice between the beach and the classroom, it’s not hard to predict what most primary school students would choose.

But it’s not often that you get to combine the two.

Students from Eden and Pambula public schools, along with the First Eden Sea Scouts, will get that chance from next year as part of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre’s new marine debris program, Clean Up Your Act!

The program will be rolled out at Tathra Public School later this year, with Narooma Public School to also take part from 2015.

Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre marine education officer, Jillian Riethmuller, said the initiative is about both cleaning up the coast and putting strategies in place to reduce future debris.

“Each group is going to adopt a section of local beach and clean it up, and sorting the rubbish so we can put the details into an online database,” Ms Riethmuller said.

“From there, we’re actually going to assess that information and see if we can come up with strategies to reduce it.

“For example, straws are the most common type of marine debris, so we’ll try and develop a strategy to reduce straw use.

“Hopefully this will become an ongoing program for the schools, where they will regularly go and clean the section of beach that they’re adopting.

“We’ll be covering a variety of beaches from Eden to Narooma, and getting that variety was one of the aims of the program.”

Ms Riethmuller said teaching students about the positive impact their actions can have on the coastal environment from a young age is vital.

The centre is holding discussions with each of the participating schools to determine which classes will take part, and Ms Riethmuller said the messages behind educational programs designed for youth also reach a wider audience in many cases.

“It also helps them to tell their parents and other people that they interact with about the impact of marine debris,” she said.

“Kids seem to be willing to pass on their information to other people.

“Hopefully we’ll even get them interested in studying science and going into bigger conservation issues in the future.”

The initiative is funded by an $11,000 grant from the IMB Community Foundation, and is one of 49 projects to be given a share in $500,000 of funding this year.

“One of the original goals of the IMB Community Foundation was to help build sustainable community assets within the regions that IMB operates,” IMB Community Foundation chairman Lynton Nicholas said.

“We are delighted that throughout the past 15 years we have been able to support a number of local Eden groups that have consequently made a positive, long-term impact on the local community.”

Applications for the 2015 round of IMB Community Foundation funding will open in November.

For information, click here.

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