Local charity Plastic Free North Devon (PFND) aims to connect people with their natural surroundings through conversations, education and events, to inspire locals and visitors alike to protect what our very existence depends on. The charity’s Ocean Explorer educational outreach project sits right at the heart of their mission to increase care and stewardship over the natural world by using education alongside real-life experiences, an approach summed up by Sir David Attenborough: “No-one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.
Setting the foundations in July, the charity took 16 carefully selected Year 9 students from across North Devon to Lundy Island to experience first hand the nature on our doorstep. Half of them went on a snorkeling safari, and the other half went on a sea safari around the island. The assistant Lundy ranger joined both groups of children, providing an insight into the work that goes on and her route into the conservation sector. As part of the programme, all students were then asked to be part of the charity’s Ocean Explorer summer outreach and present back to their school about their experience, giving them a deeper understanding of the work of the charity and empowering them to act within their own lives.
After these successful trips, the Ocean Explorer Ambassadors and volunteers took the message out into the community using virtual reality diving experiences, storytelling, rockpool ID, citizen science research, story time, face painting, Ocean Explorer caricatures, beach and park cleans, dry aquarium, seaside yoga, and arts and crafts. A range of locations across North Devon and Torridge welcomed the Ocean Explorer interactive experience over the summer, including: Birdman Festival Ilfracombe, On The Road music festival, Clovelly Maritime Festival, Lynmouth Visitor Centre, Torrington Commons, Milky Way, and various local parks and beaches, with over £800 raised through donations and raffle tickets, enabling the charity to continue their vital work in the local community.
Chloe Lovelass, Ocean Explorer Ambassador, explained the importance of the project:
“There are so many threats to our marine environment, from the clearly visible plastic pollution to the growing climate emergency. We have really enjoyed inspiring people to look after the fragile ecosystems that support us all and show people just how amazing the nature on our doorstep is, how it supports us and how we can all do things to look after it.”
The virtual reality underwater adventures, featuring a dive off the coast of Lundy and encountering the local grey seal population, were experienced by around 2500 visitors and locals, eliciting numerous ‘wows’ and ‘gasps’. Visitors were then signposted to many of the different ways that they can get involved with protecting our environment; from careers, to volunteering, relevant petitions and campaigns, extra learning, and local organisations doing amazing things.
Anne-Marie Eveleigh, Operations Manager summed up the last six weeks:
“We are really pleased with how the Ocean Explorers project has played out this summer. After over a year of hiccups due to Covid 19 it was fantastic to be back out talking and inspiring people to protect what we all love. We were able to recruit a new cohort of Ocean Explorer volunteers who were invaluable in assisting the ambassadors and we will be building on how well the summer went by heading to community groups across North Devon to reach everyone with our messaging.”
Volunteering formed a significant and valuable part of the summer’s activities, empowering students and other Ocean Explorer volunteers to help run the project, learning new skills and advocating for the environment. 65% of the Year 9 students volunteered with the project contributing nearly 100 hours and 12 Ocean Explorer Volunteers contributed over 150 hours to the project.
Plastic Free North Devon and their Ocean Explorers are now looking to connect with local community groups, youth clubs, scouts, guides and brownies etc to continue to deliver their outreach into the Autumn and beyond through structured workshops, drop-in sessions, and talks. Any local groups interested in taking part in this new phase of the project, or local businesses able to support it, please email email@example.com.
This project is made possible thanks to the following generous funders: The North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund, Badur Foundation, Fullabrook CIC, holidaycottages.co.uk, Pickwell Foundation, Turnstyle Designs, and Garfield Weston Foundation.
Plastic Free North Devon is a registered charity (Reg No: 1182464) and local environmental movement started by volunteers who want to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on the environment in North Devon and beyond. Working with local councils, community groups, businesses, schools, residents and visitors we aim to raise awareness of the issue, reduce the amount of plastic consumed, clear waste plastic from the environment and ensure that it is recycled or disposed of appropriately.
PFND Ocean Explorer Project Overview:
The Ocean Explorer project for 2021 was divided into two parts: a virtual reality experience in our interactive hub and an exciting Lundy experience for a selected group of year 9 students from schools across North Devon. The project seeked to deliver an engaging and informative education programme to local communities that:
? Improves understanding of the natural ocean environment and its importance by encouraging a life-long love of nature
? Introduces the main impacts of human activity on the planet
? Inspires further self-learning about nature and encourages more sustainable lifestyle ?choices
? Encourages volunteering in northern Devon and beyond
? Encourages everyone to feel that they can be part of environmental conversation .