Oceans and Sustainability: Creative Learning at Castleton Primary

I used Dolphin Baby as my inspiration to run activities in the classroom, linking literacy and global citizenship, teaching the children valuable life skills and helping them develop their morals. Our Dolphin Baby project investigated a dolphin’s life, specifically in Scotland's waters. It was especially important to me that the children understood that not all dolphins and sea creatures lead a happy, healthy life. We investigated the litter pollution problem (especially plastic) that affects our seas and our sea creatures.

Nicola Davies' Authors Live

We built up to watching Nicola on Authors Live by reading a selection of her books and investigating other non-fiction texts about animals. Watching Authors Live was a wonderful opportunity to hear from the author herself about conservation and the importance of looking after our planet and the animals that call it home. We heard a lot of Nicola's personal stories from her career as an author and her life as an animal lover which were informative, funny and inspiring. After hearing about our involvement in the Schools Champions Project, Nicola very kindly answered some of my pupil's questions in a video which was then sent to us by Scottish Book Trust. It was lovely to have that personalised clip just for us to refer back to throughout the project.

YDance workshop

At Castleton we are lucky to have a three year partnership with YDance, which has been coming to our school to help us to explore our topics through the medium of dance. Julianne, our instructor, danced us through a dolphin’s food chain, the different ocean currents and she even taught us about the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch'. We pretended to be a plastic bag floating through the sea, coming across various animals and coral. By doing so we were able to reflect on and discuss the devastating effect that plastic has on the ocean's creatures.

 Reading into writing

After reading Dolphin Baby we began to look at poetry. We considered a dolphin’s appearance and their life in the ocean when writing our acrostic, shape and rhyming poems. It is so beneficial to have a stimulus for writing, especially for reluctant writers and Dolphin Baby was the perfect text for this. It encompassed fiction and non-fiction, encouraging my entire class to write a range of texts. We then moved on to writing rhyming poetry about the 'Plastic Problem'. Some of their pieces were quite emotional and hard-hitting, which was excellent and exactly my aim for them. I think the children were able to complete such emotive poems purely because of their work around Dolphin Baby and their new empathy for the animal.   

 Story Sacks

As part of this project we were able to put together ten Story Sacks for the children to explore and play with. The class voted on their 'Top 10' Nicola Davies books and I worked with the Scottish Book Trust to decide which resources would be best suited to match with those books. We had the likes of animal top trumps, animal snap and match games, microscopes, beautiful cuddly toys and animal masks/puppets. The Story Sacks were a wonderful and exciting resource for the children but were also very beneficial to me when I was teaching, especially when I was introducing a new aspect of the project.

Marine Conservation Society

We were lucky enough to host representatives from the Marine Conservation Society for a morning visit to our classroom. They brought along some amazing resources that enhanced our learning and inspired the children. During our session we matched the piece of litter to the length of time we thought it would take to disintegrate. The answers was surprising to the children which I think helped get the message across. We also saw some real photographs taken by the staff where plastic and pollution had ruined an animal’s life by hurting or even killing it.

Learning through Play

The funding from the project paid for a 'Tuff Spot' tray which I used as a play station in the classroom. We know how influential and important play can be in a child's education and I thought this project was the perfect opportunity to encompass that in an upper school classroom. I turned my Tuff tray into an 'Ocean Spot' where the children were able to play with water and sand, along with toys of some ocean creatures, seaweed, pebbles etc.

During one of their play sessions with the tray, the group expressed that they wanted to 'clean up the ocean,' and so we 'polluted' our 'Ocean Spot' with various bits of litter. They then popped their gloves on and pretended to be various characters, out to clean the beach. This 'Ocean Spot' stayed in the classroom for the rest of the year because the children adored playing with it so much. It was fun, and helpful to me as their teacher, to be able to stand back and observe the children playing with one another, at the same time developing their knowledge of our project.

Castleton beach clean-up

 Beach Clean Up

Our project culminated with an exciting day trip to Prestwick Beach. We had wonderful parent volunteers come along with us who were eager to join us and support us in our Beach Clean. With guidance from the Marine Conservation Society and support from our school's Eco-Committee we were off to the beach with our litter-pickers, survey sheets and beach balls for afterwards!

When we arrived at Prestwick Beach, the sun was shining but there was plenty of litter and plastic littering the shore. As a class, we filled eight huge bags with plastic, paper, rubber, wood, metal, pottery and a lot of other ocean pollutants. A few of the children found some treasures too, though, like the boys who found some shark egg casings! Some of the children found packaging from foreign businesses, which demonstrated the true extent of the plastic problem.

This beach trip was an outstanding experience for my class. We worked hard to do our bit and clean the beach, with everyone putting in 100% effort, because they knew that what they were doing was making a difference. We had a brilliant time playing in the play park and on the sand with our frisbees and beach balls after all of our hard work, and we finished off our day with an ice-cream in the sunshine before heading home.

Thank You

I would like to say a massive thank you to Scottish Book Trust for giving me and my class the opportunity to use Nicola Davies's books in such an explorative and exciting way. It has helped me to develop the learning and teaching of literacy within my classroom and I have certainly seen the benefits from this project in my children's literacy skills and their attitudes to ocean conservation.

You can watch Nicola Davies on demand here and download brilliant learning resources with lots of creative ideas about exploring sustainability in your classroom! 


Check out the gallery below for pictures from Castleton's Champions project!


Scottish Book Trust is looking for creative and dynamic teachers and librarians to showcase the potential of its programme of virtual author events, Authors Live, as well as our Scottish Book Trust Prizes. 

For each Authors Live broadcast and Scottish Book Trust Prize, we select a teacher or librarian to work with on an imaginative project within the classroom. These School Champions are given a £400 grant plus resources and support to help demonstrate innovative approaches to engagement with literacy. Grants can be spent on the purchase of books, working with external practitioners or trips and adventures that spark the imagination and curiosity of pupils. Projects can involve cross curricular activities and partnership working - the more creative the better! 

You can find more information about the Schools Champion programme and information on how to apply here.

Ainsley Rogers

Ainsley Rogers is the Primary 4 class teacher at Castleton Primary School, Castlemilk, Glasgow.