An example of good practice: Elementary school students from Pučišća clean the coastline, harvest olives, and produce ecological soaps

Marine litter is one of the main threats to our seas and coastlines, and the best evidence for that is the great amount of waste we accumulated during our numerous clean-up actions. Specifically, a total of two tons of various marine litter have been collected. However, in marine and coastal environments, the most abundant is plastic, of which we have collected 700 kilograms, or 21,153 pieces, by now. To raise awareness of this issue, we organized a workshop on the composition and quantity of marine litter for the students at Elementary School “Pučišća” as part of the Marine Litter Free Dalmatian Island project.

Students in Pučišća want clean seas and coastline!

– While cleaning our coastline, we found a large amount of plastic, most of which were plastic caps, – said a student based on her previous clean-up action experiences within the school’s ecological group.

She is one of the students that are part of ecological groups at their school, so marine litter pollution is not entirely unfamiliar to her and her colleagues. They noticed significant amounts of marine litter on the outer shores of the island, especially during the summer. That’s why participating in this project is extremely important to them, so they can contribute to the preservation of the sea and a cleaner future on the island.

– We participated in beach clean-up actions in bays near Pučišća with our teacher Ana Marčić and the school principal. External parts of the island of Brač were covered with various waste, – said a student who is part of the ecological group.

Through the workshop on the composition and quantity of marine litter, students gained a deeper understanding of the harmful effects of marine litter, particularly plastic, on the sea and coastline. Besides recognizing the importance of environmental conservation, we identified ways to reduce the amount of waste ending up in the sea. With the support of the school, parents, and Sunce, students are now ready to reconsider their daily habits and act more responsibly towards the environment, which is a key strategy in the fight against waste pollution.

– We are extremely pleased to participate in this project. I believe this experience is interesting for our students, – said Daniel Šantić, school pedagogue.

Protocol for monitoring marine litter

What marine litter is, where it is most abundant, and what its impact is – these are just some of the questions we collectively answered. Educational activities resulted in strengthening knowledge about marine litter pollution, expanding understanding of microplastic impacts, and becoming familiar with the long-term degradation of certain items from the sea.

After identifying a range of consequences of waste pollution, to further monitor the pollution status of our coast, we introduced students to the Protocol for monitoring marine litter. Implementing the Protocol by various stakeholders establishes a system of continuous data collection on the quantity and composition of marine litter. To initiate monitoring of waste pollution status on the Pučišća coast, students will diligently collect, sort, and list marine litter within the Protocol in each of their future clean-up actions. Elementary School “Pučišća” is now richer with new experience, new knowledge, and new skills. Any further inventory and counting of waste in Pučišća will contribute to Sunce’s effort and dedication to clean seas and coastlines.

– The point is not just to constantly clean. A smaller amount of waste results in less waste in the sea and on the coast, – added Siniša Lučić Lavčević, the school principal.

In addition to students’ interest and engagement, teachers and school staff participated in a communication and advocacy workshop to accurately inform the public about their efforts and commitment to environmental protection. Elementary School “Pučišća” is an example of good practice, as evidenced by numerous school activities.

Elementary School “Pučišća” as an example of good practice

– Environmental topics, in a broader and narrower sense, are an integral part of our school curriculum and international projects, as well as extracurricular activities. By exploring and studying the cultural and natural heritage of their homeland, students not only get to know and understand it better but also develop positive emotions and desirable value attitudes towards it. Therefore, cognitive and affective assumptions necessary for a positive and sustainable relationship with the environment in which we live are created, – says Daniel Šantić, school pedagogue.

By participating in international projects such as MED-EDUC and CLI.C.K FOR SCHOOLS, Erasmus+ projects, Elementary School “Pučišća” developed partnerships with institutions from various Mediterranean countries. Such projects enable the exchange of good practices and the application of innovative methods in environmental education.

The school has two groups primarily dedicated to environmental topics: Eco-Activists and Eco-Producers. These groups of older students are led by geography and biology/chemistry/nature teachers.

– The goals of these two groups are to educate students in the spirit of a positive attitude towards natural resources, that is, to introduce them to important environmental issues at the local and global levels, and to raise awareness of the need for environmental protection among students and in the local community, – said Ana Marčić, history and geography teacher.

When not in the field, these groups educate students about environmental topics and involve them in various activities that emphasize the importance of recycling, reusing items, and generating less waste.

Eco-Producers

Among other things, Eco-Producers have been producing ecological soaps for several years now. The two main ingredients of these soaps are olive and lavender oils. Driven by the desire for quality products and comprehensive production control, they decided to independently secure the necessary main ingredients.

Accompanied by their teacher leaders, the principal, and the school caretaker, students that are part of ecological groups went to an organically grown olive harvest last autumn. After the harvest, in a modern facility in Pučišća, the olives were processed using cold pressing, following agronomic recommendations. Part of the olives was used for preservation, while the rest was used to make homemade soap from olive oil, with the addition of their fragrant local lavender.

– We are trying to independently secure resources for lavender oil as well. In the surroundings of Gornji Humac, branches were cut from old indigenous lavender bushes and prepared for the rooting process. The prepared branches in the classroom were placed in a mixture of soil and humus, and the required amount of moisture was provided. We prepared 274 individuals, which will be planted at two locations, the main school and the branch school, so we can monitor and potentially determine differences in seedling development. This will cultivate the desired lavender species, and students will become more familiar with the process and the plant, – said Simona Širković Martinić, biology and chemistry teacher.

As the rooting process unfolds in the coming weeks, group members will prepare the soil for future plantings.

Eco-Activists

Eco-Activists, as the name suggests, are more focused on environmental actions in the local community. Last year, this group started beach clean-up actions in bays near Pučišća. Under the guidance of teacher Ana Marčić, and with the assistance of Principal Siniša Lučić Lavčević and his boat, students cleaned Third harbor, bays of St. Stjepan, Sladiola, and Lozna. Since Lozna was covered with a large amount of garbage, it was decided that this year’s actions would begin with a return to this beautiful but polluted bay. Once again, diligent students’ hands filled the boat with waste from the bay, mostly plastic. At that point, it became clear how much plastic pollutes the environment and how important it is to remove it from nature.

– Additionally, we participated in a large underwater clean-up action in the Pučišća Bay in October last year, which was organized by the Tourist Board of the Municipality of Pučišća and involved about ten divers, firefighters, and numerous volunteers. Our students helped with the extraction and sorting of waste, and one of our students even dived accompanied by his father, a diver. We continue with environmental actions to free our bays from waste. Those kinds of activities go very well with our cooperation with Sunce, – concluded the school.

With the knowledge gained from the Marine Litter-Free Dalmatian Island project, the school got the opportunity to continue actively encourage its residents to behave environmentally responsibly, as well as local or national decision-makers to establish a more quality waste management system.

After education on marine litter, a large clean-up action awaits us in May. Through clean-up actions, we will contribute to the removal of waste from the environment, raising awareness among the local community, and encouraging environmentally responsible behavior among residents.

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