Celebrate World Ocean Day with local school children

Over 100 Hampshire school children have been invited to a ‘kids’ conference’ at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to mark World Ocean Day on Wednesday 8 June.

The event, called Protecting Our Planet, is being organised by the Environment Agency’s plastics and sustainability team as part of the Interreg Preventing Plastic Pollution project.

Years 6 and 7 primary and secondary children (aged 10 to 12), from 25 schools across Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight, will hear from prominent young environmentalists, take part in a Q&A, and join a series of interactive workshops.

The renowned young speakers will be:

Amy Meek, aged 18, co-founder of the charity and campaign Kids Against Plastic: Amy and her sister Ella Meek founded their campaign and charity, Kids Against Plastic, in 2016 after learning about the UN’s Global Goals For Sustainable Development and the recurring issue of plastic pollution. Their mission to make a difference started out as a home-school project and has since become an award-winning charity. They have talked at various events and have gone on to do a TEDx talk.

Lucie Parsons, aged 12, started her journey with a village litter pick after being upset by the effects of plastic pollution, later going on to be an ambassador for Kids Against Plastic: Lucie has recently had her first academic paper – A journey of emotions by a young environmental activist – published by the Royal Geographic Society. She has also visited the Scottish Parliament and spoken with a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. She has given talks at local schools and has spoken at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, which had over 16,000 people at it.

George Hassell, aged 17, aka blogger Green Fingered George: George was crowned RHS Young School Gardener of the Year at age 8 and made the first RHS Young Ambassador in October 2015 at just 10 years old. His job is to inspire other children to share his passion for gardening and the natural world. Since then he has spoken at the Houses of Parliament about young people in horticulture and made several appearances on CBBC’s Blue Peter and Newsround.

The workshops will be led by environmental organisations, including:

The Manta Trust where students will have the opportunity to become manta ray researchers to identify the manta’s unique spot pattern, explore manta ray threats, and look at how microplastics magnify up the food chain.

A density workshop by The3Engineers, which will explore how density varies in different solutions, including fresh and salt water, linking this to plastic waste on our beaches, with a final look at how a submarine rises and sinks.

A ‘wilder schools’ session led by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

An informative session with the Final Straw Foundation charity which works with businesses and communities to improve ocean health.

Around 12 million tonnes of plastic enters our ocean each year – that is equivalent to a bin lorry load every minute. By minimising avoidable plastic consumption, everyone can help reduce the impact of plastic on the planet, helping to reduce carbon footprints and contribution to the climate crisis.

Environment Agency plastics and sustainability team leader, Jessica Hickie said:

Plastic pollution has a devastating impact on the environment and continues to raise both opportunities and challenges for us as a regulator, operator and advisor.

At the Environment Agency we are already taking the lead on reducing our own impact when it comes to plastic use, including that of suppliers, but through our public engagement activities, like this World Ocean Day Kids’ Conference, we also want to influence behaviour change to help reduce avoidable plastics. We are working across multiple sectors to make this happen – agriculture, business, communities, sport, and more.

But it is our work with the education sector where we feel we can make a lasting difference. We want to inspire the next generation of young people to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects to help solve some of the biggest issues facing our planet. We hope the conference will encourage students to start having these conversations.

World Ocean Day is an annual United Nations event to remind everyone of the major role oceans play in our everyday lives. It was initiated in 1992 and over 140 countries take part today.