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Pupils exploring plastic peril

Plastic pollution is a hot topic amongst young people. How can this concern be harnessed creatively?

The environmental problems that plastics, especially in single-use form, are having on our environment are becoming more and more evident. While some shops and cities are banning plastic and other retailers are implementing zero usage of plastic straws and cutlery, we can all play our part in reducing plastic use.

Plastic was one of the key concerns among the young people we spoke to when creating this course, and many of them said that they are choosing to use tote bags, paper straws and reusable bottles instead of contributing to the plastic problem. Littering, and the impact of plastic on ocean life, were favourite topics for exploring through film and filmmaking. Plastic also features heavily in the Eco-Schools’ topic of Waste Minimisation as well as the overall concepts of Circular Economy and reducing pollution.

We’re also a big fan of this pupil-made animation, Save Bobby the Fish, which made a huge impact not only on the young people who made it, but lives on as a source of inspiration long after they have left the school. The pupils, aged 10–11, watched Disney film Paperman and were inspired to tackle the issue of single-use plastic by transforming rubbish into a short film about pollution in our seas. We caught up with the teacher and Into Film Club Leader, Rachel Lees, and a few of the pupils she teaches.

To the pupils, all aged ten:
Why is sustainability important to you? What do you care about most?
Alice: We live by the sea so I really care about the place we live as well as the entire world. So I care about reducing plastic pollution in the seas.
Melanie: Plastic pollution is making the oceans worse and killing so many innocent animals. I want to change that and I believe small actions can make a big difference if we all do it.
Sylvia: I love sealife! That’s why I care about the climate and the animals in it. I don’t WANT our world to be destroyed. I don’t WANT animals dying because of careless people!
How has the legend of Bobby the Fish lived on in your school?
Melanie: Our school has tried to recycle our paper and plastic and we have helped to turn our classroom plastic free. We hope to spread this across school!
Oscar: We are trying to protect animals in the sea because we live near the seaside by reducing our plastic!
Alice: We are all very careful about not littering or using single use plastic.
Sylvia: People have always thought of Bobby when they are trying to reuse and recycle in school.

Rachel, how do you think the children benefitted from the experience – of making Save Bobby the Fish, but also being generally eco-aware in your class?
The reaction to Save Bobby the Fish was overwhelming and the children were blown away by the support they received around the world. It has made not only the children involved in making the film, but all children across school more eco-aware. We have made eco-bricks in a bid to reduce the amount of single use plastic that is being thrown away. The children also helped in making my classroom plastic free and are brilliant ambassadors for reducing plastic pollution.
Do you have any ambitions to make more films with your pupils (about sustainability or otherwise)?
Absolutely! I have Film Club starting with Years Three and Four soon. They haven’t been able to take part in it yet due to the pandemic, so I’m very excited for them to experience all the brilliant opportunities it has to offer. I like to let their interests guide the films that we watch and the activities that we do but making more films is definitely something they are interested to do.
Do you have any tips for teachers looking to do something similar?
I would say just go for it and enjoy it! Let the children’s interests guide you. Talk about the types of films they enjoy watching and what’s important to them. It’s great fun and all children can be involved in many different ways: creating props, writing the script, filming, editing. Seeing the confidence of all the children involved grow has been amazing – it’s been a journey for all of us and we’ve learnt so much from the process.


Use the editable Mindmap sheet available in the Downloads section to consider ways you could introduce the topic of sustainability and plastic use with your learners.

  • What do your learners already know about plastic pollution?
  • What steps could you take to teach them more about the perils of plastic?
  • How could they actively consolidate their learning?

Upload your sheet to our Padlet wall or add your thoughts in the Comments section below, to share and gather your ideas.

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Sustainability Through Film

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