Last week my school hosted a beach clean up event at An Bang beach in Hoi An. It’s a popular beach near the school where tourists and locals alike enjoy the clean water and beautiful scenery. The idea for this event came as a solution to two issues. The first is that the teenagers at our school were quite vocal about how they didn’t really enjoy the events that were planned for the younger children (obviously). The second is that often in TEFL teen textbooks we teach about the environment, but we never do anything about it.
If you’d like to learn more about how we organized the event and what other things we included, read on. Also, if you are interested in other summer games to play outdoors while the weather is nice, you can get the pdf by clicking on the resource button below.
I was teaching my teen class a unit about organizing events, volunteering and different environmental issues. This was a new textbook, but we’d covered similar things in a previous textbook six months earlier. “So, have you ever volunteered before?” They all chuckled.
“Where?” they asked, “Have you ever volunteered to pick up litter?”
I have in fact volunteered for these kind of events in the past, but it dawned on me that the students had a point. There are organizations to volunteer for in Hoi An, but they are mainly run by expats and my students were completely unaware of them. This, and a beach run earlier in the day where I’d spotted a lot of trash, were the inspirations for the event.
However, I didn’t imagine that it would sound very appealing to students to give up a morning of their summer holiday to pick up cigarette butts. So my business partner and I came up with a number of ideas to make the event fun, educational, charitable and affordable for us. To do this, we teamed up with some local organisations with the experience and the resources to help us.
One of the local organisations was Viet Nam Sach Va Xanh (Vietnam Clean and Green). This group has organized other events and knew the sort obstacles we might run into and safety concerns that we might not have thought about. This group was kind enough to offer bags, protective gloves and tongs so that the students didn’t need to touch the trash directly.
Another organization that helped us out was Greenviet. This group’s mission is to protect the wildlife of Son Tra peninsula a nearby wildlife refuge that is home to the endangered Red Shanked Duc. This group not only offered some cool swag for the students, they also came and gave an informative and entertaining talk about the wildlife in the area.
The other pivotal partner in this enterprise was Luna Pizza, a local pizzeria on the beach who kindly offered us their space for free as the event would be in the morning and not interfere with their service. The lesson that I learned from organizing this event was that it’s sometimes better to work with others rather than try to do everything from scratch. Wherever you are located in the world there are likely initiatives that might share the same goal as you when organizing activities for students.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our school is growing, but currently not that large. We only had about thirty teens sign up for the event. Still, that is nearly three quarters of the teen student body. They arrived by bicycle or were dropped off by their parents all with the same slightly nervous, slightly excited expression on their face. This was, after all, the first time they’d be seeing their teachers in beachwear and sunglasses.
We started with an ice breaker game and then moved on to the trash collection while it wasn’t too hot. In order to make it fun, we made the collection somewhat competitive. We had divided the students into four teams who would be working together throughout the day. As the first activity was trash collection, we awarded points to the teams with the largest volume and weight of garbage. Yes, we were careful to explain that coconuts and sand do not count as garbage.
After that, Greenviet gave their speech with large slides so that students could become familiar with the animals of Son Tra. This also turned into a mini competition when the speaker engaged the students in a short quiz at the end. He did this by asking multiple choice questions where the students had to raise their right hand straight up for “A”, bring it to their side for “B”, straight down for “C” and left hand to the side for “D”. This, by the way, is a great way to make concept checking games fun in the classroom.
Next we had refreshments before playing some games on the beach. We had a series of races including the wheel barrow race and three legged race. We also had a relay race where teams needed to race to fill a water bottle. The students got into a line in their teams. The first student collected the water and poured it into the cupped hands of the next student. The students passed the water until the last student tried to pour what was left of the water into the bottle.
What We Could Have Improved Upon
Like any event, or even class, there are ways to make it better. Some things to consider if you are planning a similar event:
- It was incredibly hot on the beach even at 8am. It would have been better for us to organize this event in the evening or earlier in the morning.
- Nominate ONE person to keep track of points. This got a bit confused throughout and the teams were very sensitive about it.
- Make sure that you use reusable cutlery and plates if the theme of your event is recycling and cleaning up litter. Luckily we thought about this at the last minute.
- Mark areas that need clean up. It took us too long to find the areas that most needed cleaning. This could have easily been mapped out the day before.
- If you are going to give out t-shirts or other clothing for the event, make sure that it will fit your students! This became an issue for us (hence all the tight t-shirts). The details matter!
All in all, it was a three hour event that went smoothly and that the students really enjoyed. It took a bit of time on our part to organize, but now we have the added benefit of more connections to local organizations. Whether you’re a teacher or a manager, if you’re thinking of doing a community project with your kids, I urge you to do it and hope that this post helped you consider ways to do it. If you want other summer classroom ideas check out this post. If you want ideas for outdoor games, you can download the resource by clicking on the button below.