Schools across the UK are being encouraged to ‘go blue’ for the day to raise awareness among young children of the importance of our seas and rivers.
The ‘blue day’ will take place on Friday 7th June – the day before World Oceans Day – and is part of the run-up to the 2013 Ecover Schools Blue Mile in Plymouth 17th-19th June.
The Ecover Schools Blue Mile, which this year has a new charity partner, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), aims to get more young people actively involved with our blue environment.
Schools are being asked to sign up and make a splash on 7th June by wearing blue and doing aquatic activities such as relay swims, rock pooling and waterside walks. Other ways of joining in are creating a sea monster, painting a fish collage or designing a swimming costume.
The blue initiative comes as the UN holds events to mark World Water Day on 22nd March and as studies suggest that being on or near the water is good for health and well-being.
Dr Mathew White is a researcher at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Truro and has been looking at the possible health benefits of engaging with our coasts and water.
In one study, some 90 youngsters went on a 12-week surfing programme, part of which involved learning about the marine environment. They were then put through a series of health checks, which showed that their resting heart rates had improved and their quality of life, self-esteem and relationships with others were more positive, compared to a sample group of young people who had not taken part.
Crucially, he said the sooner that children are introduced to an outdoor lifestyle, the better: “It has been shown that the earlier children get involved with their green and blue environments, the more likely they are to return to them after the ‘teenage dip’ years.”
In separate research carried out by the National Trust, the charity found that children in the UK are losing contact with nature at a "dramatic" rate, and their health and education were suffering as a result. The trust said youngsters were showing symptoms of ‘nature deficit disorder’.
One of the factors behind the ‘indoor’ culture was the anxiety among parents about the perceived dangers of their children taking part in outdoor activities.
The Ecover Schools Blue Mile is organised by Plymouth-based triple round-the-world yachtsman and ocean champion Conrad Humphreys. He hopes the event will re-engage the nation’s youngsters with their natural environment: “All the recent research really does show that this trend of children not being actively involved with green and blue spaces needs to be reversed.
“That’s what the Ecover Schools Blue Mile is all about. It’s about having fun with our blue environment and learning about it at the same time. Let’s get our children active and outdoors again.”
The programme includes a new science and marine conservation event with the National Marine Aquarium and Plymouth University from 17th-19th June. Schools across the South West can register to take part in events on and off the water and in the aquarium.
The flagship event of the Ecover Blue Mile is a mass-participation swim and paddle event on the weekend of 14th-15th September, when hundreds of people will be taking to the water at Plymouth’s historic Barbican. Other events are being organised by participants across the UK.
It’s hoped that £50,000 will be raised for MCS, to help protect our seas, shores and wildlife, at a crucial time with mounting pressure on our marine environment. MCS is set to announce the 2013 Good Beach Guide next week.
The charity works closely with schools in getting the blue message across to children at a young age. Since 2005, its Cool Seas Roadshow has reached 100,000 children, raising awareness about the beauty and importance of the marine environment.
In the last two years the charity has delivered 157 roadshow visits and distributed MCS Cool Seas Action Packs to 26,971 children across the UK. Almost 60 schools have also taken part in the ‘Bottle Champions’ initiative – collecting and recycling 207,020 bottles and sending bottle tops to be recycled so they could receive a brand new kit made from recycled plastic bottles for one of their school sports teams.
Sue Ranger from the MCS said: “We believe young people should be offered the opportunity to get to know our seas, appreciate and value this amazing resource and gain first-hand experience of the role we can all play in safeguarding it.
“If this kind of learning about our seas and wider oceans were a key part of all children’s education, from a very young age, this would be likely to influence their life-long decision-making about resource use – and this could change the future.”
Ecover recently announced their continued support for the Blue Mile. They have just unveiled plans to launch a world-first in packaging in 2014 – an entirely new form of fully sustainable and recyclable plastic, incorporating post-consumer recyclables (PCR), Plantastic – plastic made from 100% sugarcane and plastic fished from the sea.
Ecover’s chief executive, Philip Malmberg said: “As manufacturers we’ve got to take responsibility for sustainability very seriously – to take real action on climate change and the damage done by our over-reliance on fossil fuels, creating ‘green’ products that deliver more than a nod to sustainability.”
Schools can sign up for the Ecover Schools Blue Mile event or register their own Schools Blue Mile events by visiting the website.