Raising awareness of environmental protection at the school "Virgen del Sol"
by Brigitte Achatz
On the 18th of October our marine biologist Jörn visited the school "Virgen del Sol" in Tarifa to inform the children about the plastic pollution on land and in the sea. He made a presentation with a lot of drastic photos, which showed on the one hand the littering in different places of the world, but also what happens in our immediate surroundings here in southern Spain. 80 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and this has fatal consequences for the creatures in the sea. But also animals on land like cats are affected by the increasing pollution.
On October 24th and 25th Jörn and I met with the children at 10.00 a.m. for a "beach clean-up" in order to put what they had learned into practice. On the first day our captain Dani, whose daughter attends this school, supported us. Meeting point was in front of one of the beach bars at the beach of Tarifa. The weather was nice and after Jörn had briefly explained what we were looking for, namely small plastic pieces, the about 60 children put on the gloves we had brought with us and off we went. The little ones immediately flocked in all directions to eagerly begin their search. We quickly filled the buckets with all kinds of garbage. Jörn started to sift the sand. Unfortunately it had rained the day before and so that turned out to be not so easy. The idea was to teach the children that plastic does not disappear, but decays into smaller and smaller particles that are then found in the sand and accumulate. We filled the sifted sand into small containers with magnifying glasses so that the children could see the small micro plastic particles well.
After the children threw banana peels, stones or wood into the garbage cans at the beginning, they learned to distinguish between what is garbage and what is natural, i.e. what can stay on the beach. After half an hour we spread out the collected garbage to see how much trash we had already collected in such a short time. What was the most noticeable in our findings, apart from the plastic, were the many discarded cigarette butts and the dog excrements, which the dog owners had collected in an exemplary manner, but then "disposed of" together with the plastic bag at the beach. Jörn used the opportunity to explain to the children that a single carelessly discarded cigarette butt pollutes 80 litres of water. And that it makes absolutely no sense to leave the dog excrement in the plastic bag on the beach, but that it must be disposed of in rubbish bins.
On the second day the Levante blew fiercely and the 100 children, who accompanied us on this day, immediately ran off to start. The pupils were really amazed how much garbage we had collected that day in only half an hour. On a stretch of beach that seemed to be clean at first sight. Quickly the big bag was full to the brim. What was especially noticeable on this day was the enormous amount of plastic lines used by fishermen for fishing. Line by line we pulled out of the sand. A good opportunity to explain to the children how dangerous these lines can be for animals if they get entangled.
We hope that the children have learned in a playful way how important it is to keep the environment clean. And that they can apply their knowledge in the future and tell others what they found that day that doesn't belong on the beach.