Learning About Ocean Plastics: The Recovery Curriculum and Beyond

Young people have faced a year of losses. Loss of friends and loved ones, personal freedom, play, daily routine and access to the environment. And yet, they remain some of the most hopeful and resilient humans on the planet.

You don’t need to look far to find inspiring examples of young people leading environmental and social action to secure a better future – and succeeding where adults are failing to make headway.

Plastic waste is a hot topic.

This month is Plastic Free July, a global event created to inspire people around the world to reduce single-use plastic waste. With an estimated 326 million participants, it's the perfect time to realise why learning about plastic belongs in every school. More importantly, it can help our children and schools post-pandemic, by supporting the Recovery Curriculum.

What is the Recovery Curriculum?

In the wake of the global pandemic, schools are being encouraged to find space for a new curriculum that builds on the interests of their learners. Centred on a popular think piece by Professor Barry Carpenter (Mental Health in Education, Oxford Brookes University) the Recovery Curriculum stresses the need for an educational approach that focuses on wellbeing, ahead of the need to catch up academically. The framework is intended to reignite a love for learning and to allow all children to succeed through the 5 Levers of Recovery: relationships, community, transparent curriculum, metacognition, and space.

The SEEd Youth Listening Project (2019) revealed plastic and waste as one of the top environmental concerns for young people when thinking about their futures. With a world that's already creating 220 million tons of plastic waste each year, and ocean plastic levels set to quadruple by the time they’re middle-aged, young people have the right to be concerned.

Young people have had enough to worry about, so how can learning about ocean plastics empower them?

The good news is that we have solutions available today that can address 80% of the plastic flowing into our ocean. Now is the time to act. Common Seas are working hard to tackle the plastic pollution crisis, but we know that real, lasting change takes commitment. As some of the most passionate and effective planet-protectors, we need young people on our team. That’s why we created Ocean Plastics Academy (OPA), a movement to empower the next generation to create a plastic waste-free future.

Plastic pollution is a powerful topic – it covers a multitude of environmental and social issues, spanning from resource consumption and circular design to marine biodiversity, human health and global climate change. Everyone, everywhere, of any age, can see how their behaviours can contribute to the problem and be part of the solution.

When we talk to young people about a future without plastic waste, they don’t just imagine cleaner streets and beaches, they imagine a more active, more connected community. They describe lush, green spaces in which to play and learn whilst simultaneously dreaming up solutions to climate change; OPA brings the topic of ocean plastics to life and enables young people to do something about it.

How can OPA support educators to deliver the Recovery Curriculum?

OPA’s hands-on activities provide an inclusive approach to learning that supports each lever of the recovery curriculum:

  1. Relationships - Young people need support to re-establish friendships and re-connect with their teachers and peers. OPA provides an abundance of opportunities for students to work together on meaningful and rewarding projects, from collaborative campaigns to investigative fieldwork.
  2. Community - Young people will have had very different experiences at home and in their community during this pandemic. The real-world issue of ocean plastics provides a meaningful context for young people to explore their role as active citizens in their own community and on a global scale.
  3. Transparent Curriculum - Students will be very aware of the learning they’ve missed and will be looking to their teachers for reassurance in how these gaps will be addressed. The cross-curricular design of OPA means that activities cover a range of subjects and allow students a depth of learning that will help secure new skills and knowledge.
  4. Metacognition - skills for thinking and learning need to be made explicit to rebuild the confidence of learners. OPA’s student-led activities and projects ensure young people are actively engaged as they develop and practice skills for learning, including creativity, reflective thinking, problem-solving, planning, collaboration and leadership.
  5. Space - Young people need space to rediscover their sense of self, to explore and to experience joy. OPA promotes curiosity and independence through fun and interactive challenges that connect learners to the ocean and the natural world around them.

Take a look at OPA resources here.

How can OPA help with planning for the new school year?

Developed with a broad coalition of educators, scientists and industry experts, Ocean Plastics Academy combines a suite of curriculum-aligned resources with practical activities for students aged 5-16 years. You can access them for free on the Ocean Plastics Academy platform.

Tell us how you’ll be using them to inspire a love for learning and to help create a plastic waste-free future. Tag us on Instagram and Twitter @CommonSeas. For more information or support relating to OPA email [email protected].

What if young people led a revolution to end plastic waste in schools?

We took 10 young people in a time machine, launched them into the future and asked them to imagine a future free from plastic waste - take a look at what they discovered in the video below:

Related Stories

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about our upcoming programmes

academy icon arrow-down icon arrow-left icon arrow-next icon arrow-right icon black-arrow icon clean-blue-alliance icon close icon download icon drawdown icon facebook icon heart icon human-health icon instagram icon letter icon link icon linkedin icon logo-circle-only icon mail icon play icon reset icon search icon strapline icon tick icon translate icon twitter icon youtube icon