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OSPARITO: even kids can act up for the Ocean

Who said you had to be an adult to act and protect the Ocean? In the framework of the Educational Marine Areas (EMA) coordinated by the French Office for Biodiversity (FOB), Surfrider Europe has imagined a new method allowing participation of the youngest in the fight against marine litter. Today, several primary schools’ classes have already taken part in this scientific approach and improved their knowledge in this massive participative scientific process.  

A collaboration with the FOB 

In 2016, the FOB has set up the Educational Marine Areas (EMA) in mainland France, these small coastal areas are handled by students and their teachers. These beach parcels, born from a group of students’ imaginations from a primary school in the Marquises, aim at raising awareness among the youngest about marine areas protection and discovering their actors.  

The OSPARITO project took root inside these Educational Marine Areas, to support primary school’s classes with handling their beach areas by raising awareness to the waste issue. The idea: allow the youngest to take part in a real scientific approach, develop their knowledge on marine environment and its protection, while enriching Surfrider Europe’s expertise and its lobbying actions to fight against marine litter. 

A scientific approach in an imaginary police environment  

The process is quite simple. For primary school classes with an Educational Marine Area, students with their teachers organize a « Marine council » at the beginning of the year to select the theme they will tackle. If they chose marine litter, then Surfrider Europe set up with them the OSPARITO protocol.    

In an imaginary police investigation, students have a first objective: gather all proofs of pollution in their EMA. They go over their beach area with a fine toothcomb, not to miss out on anything. In a second step, the « waste police » analyses the proofs: A first sorting of collected waste is made, according to about thirty different categories. Back in class, in the « proof analysis lab », a second sorting is made according to 230 different categories, a playful way to feed academic progression with mental arithmetic exercises. Once this sorting phase is finalized, the « anti-pollution squad » exchanges about the collected data: where are these wastes coming from? What can we do to reduce them?   

To ensure the scientific value of this process, the pollution follow up is done several times a year in the EMA, by the same class. This process allows to understand and see the collected waste evolution according to seasons and depending on the newly adopted directives in the framework of the fight against pollution.  

Data that matter 

OSPARITO is a real asset for classes who commit, allowing the inclusion of kids in a true scientific approach and valorizing their actions; they can, as much as adults, take part in protecting the Ocean. A simple beach cleanup is not enough, taking part in the quantification and the consideration following the waste collection allow young students to be part of the change and the construction of tomorrow’s world, their world.  

Indeed, all the collected data are gathered by the organization and will contribute to improving the scientific knowledge coming within the scope of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Thus, Surfrider Europe and other organizations and scientifics by pooling all these data with the ones from other projects, will be able to further work against marine litter pollution and provide proof to public decision makers, to support their claims. 

To this day, the OSPARITO protocol has been tested by students from a school in Etel in Brittany (France), and by classes from a school in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, on the Basque’s coast (France). In the future, the organization hopes to develop this project in other European Educational Marine Areas. A proof, that all of us, even the youngest can be actors of the change and give a hand for the Ocean.