Becoming Citizen Scientists

To celebrate 100 years of Waldorf Education, Motueka Steiner School embarked on a number of community-focused actions to spread good vibes to the wider community. One such action was “100 Bags of Rubbish”, where several classes, on several different occasions spent their mornings picking up rubbish from waterways in the vicinity of our school. So far this year, the students have picked up over 67 bags of rubbish, about 500 kgs.

Class 7 has been the main motivating force behind this action. After the third day, despite the surprising enjoyment of everyone, students were asking where all this rubbish was coming from and̈ how could it be prevented?

Greta Thunberg has been an inspiration for many in our class, revolutionising Climate Change Action by giving young people a voice in the future of our environment. Steiner education focuses on empowering students and allowing them to develop the tools and skills needed to go forward in their lives. The “100 Bags of Rubbish” project was a great way to empower students with environmental issues.

Class 7 has now become part of Sustainable Coastlines. This pilot program has the goal of getting community groups onto coastal sites around New Zealand to collect and audit rubbish found on these sites. The purpose of this data is to better understand the rubbish problem in our communities. Once we understand it, we can look at solutions and actions to get rid of this problem. The class are becoming Citizen Scientists addressing a local environmental problem.


Trainer Ben Knightly visited our region in early May and took the class through a litter auditing process. First, we had to choose a coastal site that was relevant to us. For the past 3 years, class 7 have been cycling between the school and the farm, often using a shortcut over Bachelors Ford on the Moutere River. This is a charming tidal river that runs beside the school farm. At times we enjoyed the refreshing river crossing, however, we also noticed the rubbish. We chose this location for our litter audit.

The first trip was unexpectedly busy. Together with Class 5 and 6, we picked up over 250kgs of rubbish. 100kgs of this was in the litter audit zone. This rubbish was then brought back to school and painstakingly classified, counted and weighed. Yes, down to the last bit of plastic. This took the equivalent of 45 student hours. Our results are available on the following website.

I am personally very proud of the students for their robust work on this survey and the quality contribution to the national database. We will do two more audits which will give us a better picture of the size and nature of the problem. We have some theories and predictions already. The class would welcome more adult help with the next two audits, one in October and one in February. It is important that students feel supported in tackling local issues and problems.

Margot DHondt, on behalf of
Class 7 Citizen Scientists
Motueka Steiner School


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