Valley Road School were announced as winners of this year’s Henley Schools Environmental Science Competition with their Single Use Plastics in Lunch boxes project at the River & Rowing Museum last Wednesday.
The Year 3 children at Valley Road school with their teacher, Miss Lauren Nottage presented a project that really impressed all the judges. After discovering that approximately 350 items of single use plastic were thrown away in just two days by the Junior classes alone, the students united to hold a plastic-free lunch on Monday (20 May). The project focused on the devastating impact of plastic waste and the primary methods of combating it. Turning their attention to everyday disposable items — clingfilm, water bottles, plastic bags, straws and coffee cups — the young scientists came up with sustainable alternatives, and even made their own. Conscious of the prevalence of clingfilm in lunch boxes, the Year 3 class crafted reusable wraps out of fabric and beeswax to fold around their sandwiches and snacks. The wraps were so successful that they were able to sell them to other students in preparation for the plastic-free lunch.
Chair of Competition Organising Committee, Patrick Fleming said, “All the entries were of a very high standard and even exceeded the entries from last year. Valley Road scored very well on all the criteria environment, science, cross curricular, school engagement and external engagement (they showed us the Henley Herald article published on 23 May). There was a very good general level of work including homework across the curriculum and additionally there were some exceptional pieces of work including posters and the creation of “Wax wraps” from cotton off-cuts and beeswax to provide reusable wrapping for sandwiches at a sensible cost, to replace plastic bags and clingfilm.”
Miss Notage said, “I am incredibly proud of all the children’s hard work and the passion that they have shown throughout the project. The science competition is a fantastic opportunity for the children to complete an independent and totally child- led experiment and I hope that it has inspired some of them to pursue a career in the sciences. It was also a great chance for them to investigate issues that are current; after all it is their generation who will be forced to deal with the increasingly alarming impact of climate change.”
Benjy Burfitt from Valley Road said, “I feel really happy excited & proud of all my class mates to have won this project. We all worked really hard & learnt a lot. When I first started studying this subject I realised how much of an impact plastic is having on the environment & animals, both of which I love. Single use plastic is plastic that can only be used once & after it’s used it either goes into a landfill or the ocean. This upsets me alot. My class organised a day at school where single use plastic was not allowed for one day at school for our school lunches. I was happy everyone got so involved & it was great fun researching & making alternative materials to store our food in. I have been inspired by Miss Nottage to learn more about this subject & to teach others not to use single use plastic. I also think the people at the Government should help the supermarkets & shops to use brown paper bags instead of plastic bags.”
The school were presented with the trophy and a cheque for £300 by Henley Mayor, Councillor Ken Arlett. The event is sponsored by Henley Town Council, Quintessa, Thamesfield Youth Charity and The Henley Educational Trust.
Runners up were Sacred Heart School for their Plants and Climate Change/Reducing Packaging for School Lunches. The first part of this project was a follow on from their plant project last year. They refined the experimental method involved in measuring rainfall and giving sets of tomato plants water in standard, reduced and enhanced amounts and checking growth. The second part of the project was on the subject of rubbish and specifically plastics in lunch boxes. Patrick commented, “We were impressed by the breadth of information in the project work, with individual expression from the children taking part. They conducted a survey of rubbish, getting parents of the whole school involved in collecting it. They sorted the rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable. They also produced publicity material to present to the school in an effort to reduce the level of non-recyclable waste and they are planning to run another survey to see if they have made a change.”
Other projects were an Air Quality and Problem in Henley with Litter projects from Rupert House School, Sound Pollution from St Mary’s School, a Garden project from Shiplake Primary School and the affect batteries have on flowers from Sonning Common School. Each school was presented with a letter with the offer of a fruit tree of their choice to be planted in November with the help of Henley in Transition.
Patrick thanked the River & Rowing Museum for hosting the event again this year. Helen Cook, Head of Learning, River & Rowing Museum said, “We’re really pleased to host this event as it is in line with our mission for education on the environment.”
Henley Mayor, Ken said, “I’m delighted to be here to present the prizes and thanked you to all those that have made this possible and for the hours of work that the teachers and children have put in as well as the work of those organising the competition. I am surprised and pleased by the level of understanding that the children have and of their concern for all aspects of their environment. Henley Town Council are also concerned about the environment and are in the process of declaring a climate emergency (this drew applause from all those present).”