Using Skype in the Classroom to empower students to protect the marine environment

Beach scene with the message: "Join the Skype Plastic Cleanup Brigade!"

“Hi! Wondering if you would like to Skype with my kids and talk about plastic waste.”

It’s incredible how impactful a simple 16-word text can be, how a simple action can lead to greater achievements. This message from Oluwakemi Olurinola, a Nigerian teacher, back in August 2017, was the beginning of my Skype lesson, The Skype Plastic Cleanup Brigade. Nearly two years on, the idea behind it remains the same: little actions DO matter! By educating young people about the hazards of plastic pollution, we’re inspiring them to take action and join the fight against this global threat.

From Australia to Canada, The Skype Plastic Cleanup Brigade has been in almost 200 classrooms around the world. I’m so grateful for the students of every age and inspiring educators worldwide that I’ve met through sharing this lesson on Skype. Read on to learn how we’re building a network to find solutions for the plastics crisis.

 

The start of my journey

 

I believe we can all do something to help. It doesn’t matter how little our actions may be, they will help somehow. After all, the 8 million tons of plastic ending up in the ocean every year grows just one bottle, bag or cup at a time. So, as I always say in my lesson, we need to look inside ourselves, find our own strengths and abilities, and join the fight!

I live in a seaside town and have always been interested in the environment and animal well-being. And while I’m a creative and sociable person, I lack the time or the resources to plan or participate in cleanup campaigns on a regular basis. Instead, I decided to take advantage of my passion for technology and foreign languages and create this Skype in the Classroom lesson to help mobilize students, parents and teachers around the world.

 

Making a difference with Skype in the Classroom

 

“We can get anywhere in a blink of an eye with Skype,” one of my students once told me.

And that’s so true! I’ve come to realize just how powerful the Skype in the Classroom community and Skype can be. My students and I have been inspired by so many amazing experts, incredible virtual field trips and many Mystery Skype sessions.

After having been on the receiving end of various Skype calls from these passionate people, I now find myself giving my own Skype lesson on matters I truly care about.

Concerned educators from all over the world are turning to me to deliver my Skype Plastic Cleanup Brigade lesson to their classes. Despite being a full-time teacher myself, I take such requests very seriously and give these teachers and their classes my full support and attention. When teachers register their interest, I send them my lesson plan, including all the links and ideas they will need and answer any questions they may have.

After the lesson, I ask them to share their work and feedback. And I couldn’t be happier with the response I’m getting! Some of the teachers I’ve connected with are now part of the [email protected] team, a group of ‘warriors’ fighting the plastic pollution threat worldwide.

Here are just a few examples of the outstanding work these teachers and their students are doing out there:

  • Farhan Khan’s students (12-15-year olds) in Bhandara, India, joined forces with a social group to carry out several cleanup campaigns.
  • Patcharin Wongchompoo’s 8-year-olds in Surao Huamknoi, Thailand, are reusing and repurposing plastic in many creative ways.
  • Janeth Torres’ 5th graders from Monterrey, Mexico, are leading a campaign to refuse plastic bottled water, setting an example for 450 other students, teachers and community members.

And I’ve got so many other great examples of classrooms from Sarajevo, Bosnia, to El Paso, Texas, getting involved! I’ve met bright kids with inquisitive minds coming up with such smart questions. I’ve seen them develop cleanups, artwork, songs and demand for changes in their schools. It’s fantastic to witness first-hand how these young people are spreading the word and taking action.

 

Satisfaction in making a difference

 

I strongly believe that we need to “learn and know in order to love and protect.” So, I created a website where I’m gathering articles, videos, photos and contributors willing to share their work and activities in the fight against plastic pollution. I have also created the “[email protected] Chats”—Skype calls where educators can share their ideas and experiences related to the plastic pollution fight.

I’m often asked if I earn anything for doing this. And people are often surprised by my answer: nothing! If by nothing one means inspiring so many young (and not so young) people all over the world to take action against this scourge and the sense that I’m helping our planet the way I can, then yes, I earn nothing!

I’m extremely passionate about our environment and truly believe in the power of young people. I couldn’t be more thankful to Skype in the Classroom for giving me and other educators an effective platform to influence a wider audience. Through Skype, we can come together and coordinate our efforts to clean up our beautiful world.

Why not get involved with Skype in the Classroom to share your expertise and inspire kids to make a difference? Learn how you can apply to become a guest speaker here.

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