Learning about pollution


Teach your section about the devastating impact of plastics on marine life, ahead of The Great British Beach Clean on 15 September. 

This activity contributes to the following badges: 

  • Cub Our World Challenge Award
  • Scout Naturalist Activity Badge
  • Scout Environmental Conservation Activity Badge

It could also help towards the following:

  • Beaver My World Challenge Award
  • Cub Environmental Conservation Activity Badge
  • Scout World Challenge Award

Time it takes: 45 minutes 

You will need:

  • Rubber bands 
  • Some small sweets 
  • String 


Discuss with your section what kinds of plastics, such as bottles or carrier bags, might end up in our oceans, the potential damage this can cause, and what wildlife might be affected by it and how. 

Ask a young person to volunteer so you can demonstrate. Put a rubber band across the back of their hand, using their thumb and little finger to hold it in place. Ask them to try and remove the rubber band, without using their other hand or teeth, or rubbing it against anything. 

Hand out one rubber band to each young person so they can try it themselves.
Tell them their hand and arm are a bird, with the hand being the head and the forearm being its neck. 

Tell them to place the rubber bands either around their hands or arms and then give them 30 seconds to try and free themselves from the rubber bands without using their other hand (or anyone else’s – no helping!). 

Have a discussion about how difficult it was to get free and what plastics the rubber bands might represent for birds and other marine life, such as drinks can rings, fishing line or plastic bags. How might birds get caught in the plastics? Perhaps by swimming into them? The young people might have rubbed their hand against a desk to try and get it off. What would a bird use? Explain that for birds and other wildlife, plastics can have dire consequences, such as suffocation or starvation. 

Take it further:

Take your section on a beach clean – a national campaign and community-impact project, perfect for sections based near the British coastline to get involved in. For landlocked sections, you could consider this activity while planning your camp and incorporate a beach clean, or consider another waterway such as a canal.

Encourage your section to think about their daily plastic consumption and to upcycle some of the refuse they collect into a recycling bin. As a section you could even think of ways to reduce plastic at your next event or camp.

Another way of taking it further is to learn about the diets of seabirds and marine life. Find out the calories that animals need to stay alive. Using sweets to represent food, ask young people to collect enough sweets from the other side of the room. Then they do this again, but with a physical restriction, maybe using the rubber bands technique, or by having their feet tied together.

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