Wainuioru School pupils cleaning up their school grounds and surrounding area. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Hayley Gastmeier

Wainuioru School is doing its part to keep the coastline and waterways rubbish free.

Year 4 and 5 pupils ended 2019 on a positive note, collecting six large paper bags full of rubbish from the school grounds and surrounding roads.

The rural Masterton school signed up to a new programme that gives schools across New Zealand the tools and know-how to tackle pollution in waterways.

The programme, created by Nestlé in partnership with the Kiwi non-profit organisation Sea Cleaners, offers a variety of resources to help schools conduct clean-ups.

It also teaches pupils how to categorise and analyse rubbish collected and examine how it might have ended up in waterways.

Complementing the free online resources for schools, clean-up kits were given out to the schools taking part.

The kits were made from 100 per cent reusable and recyclable materials, including paper collection bags, cotton gloves, and guides to help pupils correctly sort the rubbish.

Year 4-5 teacher Breifne McConnon said the school had a big environmental focus so she decided to sign up her class for the Sea Cleaners Kit.

“Being a rural school, the children are predominantly outside, and it is important to teach them how to look after the environment.

“Educating kids about conservation and water quality is extremely important so that they can continue to have the wonderful resources that we have now for years to come.

“Children in my class spoke about seeing people throwing rubbish in their streams and creeks near their farms.

“They understood that this wasn’t the right thing to do but they didn’t fully understand the impact that this has on not only animals but also the water quality.

“They want to be able to play and swim in that water and will not be able to do so if people don’t dispose of their rubbish properly.”

Breifne said the clean-up was an eye-opener for the children.

While they were surprised at how much rubbish they collected, this spurred them on to continue to do their part to help the environment.

“Since the day of our big clean up I have seen them out in the playground reminding other children to put their lunch rubbish back into their lunchboxes to take home and I have noticed a big difference in my own class and how they are more mindful of their own rubbish.”

She said the class was “hooked” from the moment they started the programme.

Pupils built a mock river system in the school sandpit to show how the water flows from mountains, to creeks and rivers, and eventually to the sea.

“They learnt about how long it takes for plastic to decompose and the effect that it is having around the world.”

While sorting and analysing the rubbish, the children discovered it was mainly plastic bottles and food packaging, as well as glass bottles.

Breifne said taking part in the project was a terrific way to end of the year.

She said many children enjoyed going to Castlepoint and Riversdale beaches, and now understood that to keep the coastline clean, it was important to look after the environment around them.

Content in the Nestlé for Healthier Kids Sea Cleaners programme covers areas within the school curriculum including science, social science and the arts.