© Photo credit Adam Porter

Classrooms connect with science through skype: bringing plastics to the people

Research at the University of Exeter goes live this month, with scientists investigating microplastic pollution beaming their work straight into schools.

Alongside colleagues from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, researchers in Biosciences are offering schools nationwide the chance to ask questions about microplastic pollution and its impact upon the world’s oceans, through collaboration with Digital Explorer and Skype Classroom.

Microplastics, those tiny fragments of plastic that are present in many common household goods from cosmetics to packaging, can be found in the middle of the oceans circulating currents, or washed up on shores around the world. They present a growing environmental problem, but as Dr Ceri Lewis says “plastics are a major issue in our oceans at the moment but one we can easily do something about”.

The team in Biosciences and at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory have produced a full set of GCSE level resources called “plankton, plastics and poo”, based directly on their most current research into the impacts of plastics on marine microorganisms. This month, schools around the UK will be able to book Skype Classrooms with researchers as part of Microplastics Live to give pupils the chance to ask the scientists themselves about their work and what they have learnt from the online resources.

“We feel strongly that educating the next generation to be aware of this issue and to be better custodians of our oceans is a vital part of our work” says Lewis. PhD researcher Adam Porter adds that “the aim of education should not just be gaining knowledge but causing action”. Porter hopes that events like Microplastics Live will “raise up the next generation of scientists, politicians, educators and citizens with a healthier and more grounded world view and with a determination to make positive change wherever they go”.

Giving school children the chance to see life at the coal face of science and talk to researchers about their work will certainly be a step in the right direction.

Written by Richard Cross, Biosciences Pressgang

Date: 31 October 2016

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