Climate Watch

45 Preschoolers, Climate Warriors

“I found a baby crab trying to go to his crab family,” a four year old explained as he picked up the small creature and placed it gently among the rocks."
29 Aug 2022 15:38
45 Preschoolers, Climate Warriors
From (R) -Five year old Torika Deiloa with Postgraduate Marine science student Savaira Rayawa during the cleanup campaign at USP lower campus beachfront. (L)- Picking up rubbish by USP Educare Centre preschoolers. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

The sound of excitement and giggling from 45, four- and five-year-old children echoed in a bure at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Lower Campus grounds on Friday.

With the usual adult supervision, preschoolers of USP Educare Centre were eager to collect rubbish along the lower campus beachfront. The outing was part of the youngsters’ two weeks theme on climate change.

The Centre collaborated with USP’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE), Pacific Ocean Litter Youth Project (POLYP) and USP Islander Paddling Club.

 

Climate Change Week For Preschoolers

The preschoolers were accompanied by four staff, two practical teachers, parents and guardians. USP Educare Centre Head Teacher, Vaciseva Rarako was all smiles as she saw the fascination and excitement among the children picking up rubbish along the beachfront.

“The best thing is the practicality of the children coming out rather than just being theoretical but doing hands on experience and walking the talk is the best thing especially at this age,” Ms Rarako said.

Because when they go into the later stages of their lives, they will realise the importance of environment stewardship. The children also got to explore along the beach where one child shouted, “I found a baby crab trying to go to his crab family.”

The four year old carefully picked up the small organism and placed it gently among the rocks.

“It’s not everyday they get to come out with their classmates as they grasp the real-world knowledge of marine life,” Ms Rarako said.

USP Educare Centre Head Teacher, Vaciseva Rarako receives a bag of rubbish from one of her students.

USP Educare Centre Head Teacher, Vaciseva Rarako receives a bag of rubbish from one of her students.

“For this week and the next, our topic is on climate change, so it was important that we brought them out to see for themselves to understand the impacts of climate change on our foreshores, marine life and what we as individuals need to do to help our oceans and environment,” Ms Rarako said.

“They are also learning to realise the importance of putting rubbish in the proper bins with the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

The preschoolers were given gloves and plastic bags each and were put in groups of four with USP students. They were seen picking up washed up empty noodle packets, containers, pieces of clothing and many more.

The children’s faces lit up like they were on a treasure hunt for rubbish. One preschooler had picked up an old dish rack and playfully told his classmate he was going to make a toy truck out of it.

“In any child development, it’s very important to lay down a positive foundation because it will soon turn into a habit and they understand between good and bad,” Ms Rarako said.

 

Five-Year-Old Enjoys Experience

“I had so much fun collecting rubbish on the beach. There was so much rubbish” Five-year-old Torika Deiloa said as she skipped back to the assembly bure after the rubbish collection.

Alongside her during the experience was USP Marine Science Masters student, Savaira Rayawa who assisted her with the rubbish collection.

“It was interesting to see how she wanted to know about plastics during our walk around the beach,”

Picking up rubbish by USP Educare Centre preschoolers. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Picking up rubbish by USP Educare Centre preschoolers. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

“Involving children at the grass-root level is an eye opener and an opportunity to raise awareness to encourage others to be involved in the fight on climate change and it begins in little activities like this,” she said.

Also part of the expedition was five year old Vaciseva Ratabacaca who was accompanied by her grandmother Anaseini Ratabacaca.

“I could tell from my granddaughter’s facial expression that she absolutely loved today’s outing,” Ms Ratabacaca said.

“I believe it’s a good learning experience for these young curious minds and I commend the staff and students who came out to give a helping hand to these preschoolers.”

 

Preschoolers – Protector Of Oceania

Youth Climate Change Advocate Salote Nasalo said the interaction was in a way creating mentorship and being good role models on what children should and should not do with disposals.

“It’s always good to administer being protectors of Oceania to them at a very young and delicate age. Such activities build good foundation and it will teach them to be aware of their environment and do what is right,” Ms Nasalo said.

“We are at the frontline of climate change impacts and we see the drastic effects of climate change in the Pacific,” Ms Nasalo said.

“Climate change needs to be addressed at a very young age especially into the school curriculum both theoretically and practically. These kids are very active and they will produce positive action when we show them the ropes at their level.”

Picking up rubbish by USP Educare Centre preschoolers. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Picking up rubbish by USP Educare Centre preschoolers. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

It was the first time for Ms Nasalo to work with children compared to individuals from high schools and other universities. “It’s been fun and a learning moment for us here.”

She added that during rainfall, carelessly disposed rubbish will enter marine ecosystems one way or the other.

“Some of these marine lives are critically endangered or vulnerable to extinction and these will affect its population size. Ms Nasalo is in her final semester of completing her Master of Science in Climate Change.

She is also a scholar of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

“My heart is full when I see young advocates being nurtured to follow our lead because they are the ones taking over the legacy that we will leave behind.”

 

TURNING RUBBISH INTO TREASURE

Displayed at the grounds for the children were art made from marine debris. Head teacher, Ms Rarako thanked the for showing children that we can turn rubbish into treasure.

“I noticed how the kids went up to the art displayed and were touching the tire that had the clothes peg and bottle caps glued to it. It’s a joy to see them explore these new things,” she said.

Co-founder of Pacific Ocean Litter Youth Project (POLYP), Suzanne Turaganiwai said the artwork was from different Marine Debris Artivism workshops.

“It’s sort of an awareness for communities about the types of rubbish that are coming in wastes and its impacts it has on our coastal areas,” Ms Turaganiwai said.

The art collection has been docmented on her Instagram page, ‘Benu ni waitui’. Since November of last year, the POLYP group has been conducting cleanups twice a week along the lower campus beach. Mondays and Fridays at 4pm. Then on Wednesdays, the rubbish is taken in for weighing.

Art made from marine debris. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Art made from marine debris. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

“We collect and weigh the rubbish just to categorise and quantify the types of marine debris that have being washed up.”

“Since November, we have collected about two tonnes of rubbish.” Ms Turaganiwai was pleased with the approach from the Educare Centre to involve the children in the clean up campaign and on climate change.

“It all starts from home. If parents can take up some sustainable habits in their lifestyle in what they buy and how they dispose and manage their waste.”

Children will see, learn and do and it will become good habits for them.” POLYP is also co-founded by USP’s master’s in marine science student Andrew Paris.

Mr Paris is also a co-author of the research journal ‘Presence and abundance of microplastics in edible freshwater mussels (Batissa voilacea) on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu’.

Rubbish collected during the cleanup. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Rubbish collected during the cleanup. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Professor Holland Applauds Youngsters

Before returning to the Centre, the children ended their trip with lunch and games. USP’s Professor for Ocean and Climate Change and Director for Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCESD), Elisabeth Holland applauded the preschoolers for their amazing cooperation and interest in the environment and climate change. “YOU ARE CLIMATE WARRIORS!!” she told the children as they shouted in excitement.

 

Feedback: kelera.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj



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