Eco heroes have recycling in the bag

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Pupils were rapt as Bag Girl took on the Rubbish Monster as part of an eco workshop. Jackie Cosh was on hand to witness the battle between good and evil (smelling)

My name is Bag Girl and I am a recycling superhero. I love recycling plastic bags." And so the children of Strathblane Primary, near Glasgow, are introduced to Bag Girl, aka Emily Reid, when she begins a day of events at their school with her company Eco Drama.

Eco Drama provides educational drama workshops and plays on environmental topics to make children think about sustainable living. Ms Reid, along with performers Eilidh MacAskill and Alistair Edwards, travels around Scotland in their Magic Van, which is powered by reclaimed vegetable oil.

Today each class is getting the opportunity to see either the Recycling Heroes workshop or the Isle of Egg show. Bag Girl is part of the Recycling Heroes workshop and the P4 children are all impressing her with their own superhero poses, followed by a demonstration of how they would chase evil villains, and their zips, zaps and booings.

Once they are all warmed up and excited, and have swiped the imaginary plastic bags, they sit down to hear about Bag Girl's arch enemy, the disgusting, smelly Rubbish Monster. By this point they are engrossed and Bag Girl and Rubbish Monster have become real to them. One boy asks where the monster is - could he be in the gym hall?

No, Rubbish Monster is the result of people who don't recycle, she explains. She then asks them where rubbish goes and what is bad about landfill sites. The children are keen to tell Bag Girl how much they know - that they are smelly, and that animals can fall into them and get hurt. The class has already received an information pack, so they are pretty "clued up".

Over the next hour the children take part in quizzes, hear stories about Bag Girl and give her ideas on how they could all save the world from Rubbish Monster and other such villains.

Class teacher Alison Paterson is delighted with the workshop. "It has been fantastic," she says. "The children have all enjoyed it. They wanted to take part and have been enthusiastic. We have been looking up these topics during the week, so this has reinforced what we have been doing."

Over in the gym hall, Ms Reid was right and Rubbish Monster is indeed not there. Instead, Ms MacAskill and Mr Edwards are performing The Isle of Egg for P1-3s.

The show is based on the story of the real Isle of Eigg and the steps it has taken to be self-sufficient and eco-friendly. Through interactive stories and songs, the children help Granny and Shuggle McBugal to decide what to do when the generator breaks down. Granny's petrol-powered bike has to go and Shuggle has to stop leaving lights on and spending so much time on the Wii. Alternatives are explored and the children are delighted by the solar windmill and hydrogen-fuelled toy car.

P1 teacher Sheena Mylles has clearly enjoyed the show as much as - if not more than - the children. "It was very good," she says. "There are five- year-olds here, and to hold their attention for an hour like that is magnificent. The story is simple enough and the pre-activities were good. They gave a foundation for the group to come in today."

Ms Reid trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and was working with the Edinburgh International Science Festival, running science shows, when she came up with the idea of using drama to bring eco issues to schools.

"I learn from drama," she says. "I saw that there was a gap in the market and I wanted to make the idea of being eco-friendly more fun and accessible, to demystify it and make it the norm rather than the idea of people being hippies and tree huggers."

Information from Learning and Teaching Scotland helped her to incorporate the relevant topics. "I try to ensure the workshops tick the right boxes. I am very excited about Curriculum for Excellence and feel that it could mean good things for drama - it is a great interdisciplinary subject."

Headteacher Sandra Logan is looking forward to being entertained in the afternoon sessions. "We use drama and the expressive arts a lot to deliver the curriculum," she says. "It is very effective and the pupils take the messages on board."

Eco drama in schools is not (just) a load of old rubbish

The teacher receives an information pack before the Eco Drama visit, and is given a follow-up pack for the class to work on afterwards. This contains ideas for art, maths and writing. Suggested class activities include making a recycling hero cape; creating a junk Rubbish Monster; doing a red light survey, noting how many lights have been left on; becoming a town planner and making your own green island like the Isle of Eigg.

Eco Drama tours Scotland, visiting schools as far afield as Shetland and the Borders. The team currently performs three workshops and one show:

Recycling Heroes

A workshop for children from P1-5, which looks at the three Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle.

Eco Gadgets

A workshop for P6-S1, which looks at technologies and science, examining how gadgets can help us to be more eco-friendly.

The Oil of Life

A drama role-play aimed at S1, but also suitable for upper primary, which will be available from August.

The Isle of Egg

A drama aimed at primary children of any age, which is an ecological fable inspired by the Isle of Eigg.

A new show is being developed around the themes "Sustaining our World" and "Food and the Environment". It will be ready in February 2012.

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