A project is to go to great lengths to teach youngsters about the marine world on their doorstep.
Durham Wildlife Trust has been awarded £19,545 in funding for the project which starts next March.
And while pupils will be able to visit the shoreline, they will also learn what life is like under the waves by taking a dip in a local swimming pool “planted” with plastic seaweed, coral and marine creatures.
A total of £16,711 has come from the Local Environmental Action Fund (LEAF) at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which will pay for training, travel, pool hire and staff time for the project, while £2,834 from The Hedley Foundation will fund the cost of equipment such as snorkels, clothing and specialist resources like the artificial coral and seaweed.
The aims of the project are to:
Create a greater understanding of the North Sea environment among 375 schoolchildren.
Explore human impact on urban waterways and the marine environment.
Encourage schools to build the North Sea into their learning programmes.
The young explorers will visit the coastline to discover the wildlife which lives on the rocky shore. They will investigate the impact of plastics, pollutants and other litter and how pollution can reach the sea through urban waterways.
Children will litter-pick to help clean up the coast and identify examples of pollution.
After their outdoor sessions pupils will further their learning in their local swimming pool, which will be transformed into a mock North Sea using the realistic props from a specialist supplier.
Children will take action packs home to share what they have learned with their families.
Kirsty Pollard, trust education and community officer, said: “Imagine you are a 10-year-old and going on an expedition to explore rock pools and go snorkelling amongst realistic and wonderful marine models.
“This is the excitement we are looking to capture amongst children and convert into a long-term interest in the sea and its wildlife, and a lifelong commitment to the marine environment.”
Katie Wellstead, environment partnerships manager at the Community Foundation, said: “By increasing the knowledge of young people in the community we can inspire action, and create a knowledge base that better understands the environment in which we live.”
The trust team will receive snorkel instructor training as part of the project, to ensure safety standards.
The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland acts as a hub for individuals, families, businesses, and other agencies to give to communities by matching their interests with those seeking funding at a local level.
The Newcastle-based charity is the UK’s biggest Community Foundation.
Established in 2006, the Local Environmental Action Fund is a grant-making operation dedicated to supporting and inspiring communities to tackle environmental issues in their local area.
It is a collaborative fund which encourages philanthropists, corporate bodies and trusts to pool resources, making for a bigger impact at a local level.
As of July, LEAF has awarded more than £1.3m to over 170 projects, which can be focused on any environmental issues.
For more details on LEAF contact Katie Wellstead on 0191 222 0945 or go to http://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/leaf
Next week: How LEAF has backed a variety of projects.