Young Marine Champions at celebration event December 2019

As our Young Marine Champions start to make a real difference in their schools, we welcome them to a special event celebrating their efforts.

Our project Secrets of the Solent allows us to meet local people from all walks of life who want to protect their seas. Many have joined us as Marine Champions to take action with our support, but we've also heard from a great number of passionate young people.

We wanted to give these under-18s a way to join our fight for marine wildlife, so we're supporting several local secondary schools to host Young Marine Champions. These student volunteers are running marine-focused activities at their schools, and have made fantastic progress in their first few months.

Bitterne Park School have arranged a beach clean, Castle View Academy have run a litter-collecting competition, Ryde Academy have reduced single-use plastics in their cafeteria, and Ryde School with Upper Chine have created a 'swap shop' where students exchange clothes instead of buying new ones. To celebrate these amazing first efforts, we brought the four schools together for a special event at Castle View Academy on 9 December 2019.

After a welcoming introduction the event kicked off with Tim Ferrero, Secrets of the Solent Project Manager, regaling the students with tales from the deep. He spoke about his work as a marine biologist and shared the stories behind some fascinating items like giant barnacles, a dolphin spine, and polystyrene cups compacted by water pressure on deep sea dives.

Next to speak was environmental artist Trudi Lloyd Williams, who we're collaborating with for our Spiny Seahorses and Ripping Yarns initiative. She explained how the sea has shaped her creative work, and asked the students why they consider it important to look after the Solent. Their responses were incredibly inspiring, with common themes being the impact of pollution, the health of wildlife, and our responsibility to build a sustainable future for the planet.

To highlight the effect of our lifestyles on the marine environment, the students were then shown pictures of degraded plastic litter and encouraged to guess what the items had originally been. Trudi also brought along a chair filled with plastic bottles gathered on beach cleans, which proved popular for selfies!

After some lunch we heard from Anne Sayer, Director of local environmental consultancy Planet Aware. She shared some fun ideas on how to reduce waste during the festive season, including how to make your own Christmas decorations using spare buttons. The students then made candle holders with pre-used glass jars and special pens - the designs can be wiped off, allowing the jar to be recycled or redecorated for another occasion.

Before the students headed home there was just time for a rousing closing talk from Emily Stroud, Community Engagement Officer on Secrets of the Solent. She praised their passion for helping the marine environment and building the future they want to see - this is what makes them true 'marine champions'.

We can't wait to see what our Young Marine Champions get up to next, and will be with them every step of the way. If you want to follow in their footsteps, why not become a Marine Champion (18+) or explore other ways to get involved in Secrets of the Solent?