ISP Scientists lead the way in fight against Plastic Pollution Worldwide


The importance of STEM-based education in 2021.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) helps students to improve their problem solving and decision-making skills, builds creativity and lays the foundations for children to be future innovators.

At ISP, we believe in the importance of preparing our students for the future. That’s why we are actively embracing the need to put greater focus on equipping our students with a variety of 21st century skills.

As a result, in 2021, we launched the ´I am an ISP Scientist´ programme, a citizen science project focused on the theme of plastic pollution.

Citizen science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur scientists. This kind of public participation in research enables our students to contribute to advancements in real-world scientific innovation and discovery whilst developing their own understanding of science.

In this project, 476 aspiring scientists, aged 8-14, from 41 ISP schools came together to help solve this global problem, to find out where the missing plastic is and fight back against plastic pollution.

Take a look at our video below to find out more about the findings of our budding scientists and how the data will be used to help create real and lasting environmental change.

Collaboration is key

Key to the success of this programme was the need to collaborate with real scientists. We partnered with the fantastic team at Ellipsis Earth, which gave ISP students access to cutting-edge machine learning technology to help them on their mission to map the journey of missing plastic waste and identify trends in order to influence environmental change.

The partnership also meant that students had the opportunity to meet some professional scientists and get a taste of different STEM careers.

Marine Mammal Biologist Jack Lucas and Material Scientist Jenni Garden discussed sustainable materials, recycling and circular economy, and helped students to plan and design data collection.

Information Designer Duncan Geere and Visual Artist Bryony Benge-Abbott shared inspirational and creative ideas about how to combine science and art, and turn data into something beautiful and engaging.

How ISP Scientists Brought the Project to Life

The goal was to conduct in-depth research and put forward targeted ways to influence positive environmental change.

First, our amazing teachers delivered a series of interactive workshops produced by Ellipsis Earth. Students explored the issues around plastic pollution and developed their survey and research skills.

The ISP scientists used what they had learnt in the workshops to design their own methodology to investigate patterns and trends around litter in their local area.

We were truly impressed by the range of innovative hypothesis and predictions the students came up with. Some students wanted to find out if there was any difference between the litter on weekdays and weekends, some analysed their data to find out which types of litter were the most prevalent, others looked at the difference between parks and urban areas.

Participant students were then given access to cutting edge machine-learning technology via the Ellipsis Earth app. This enabled them to undertake a comprehensive research project, uploading photos of litter, which were processed by an algorithm that identified what kind of items were in the photographs and created a global heat-map of waste around the world. Like true scientists, students had to do a lot of problem-solving along the way, not least designing projects around changing lockdown restrictions in different countries.

Students then analysed and evaluated their data. The results were eye-opening!

identified items of litter

weight identified (kg)

environmental impact in years (million)

ISP Scientists Leading the Way in Driving Positive Environmental Change

It didn’t stop there.

Students went on to use their results to come up with targeted ways to influence positive environmental change – data informed decision making.

We were blown away by the array of inspiring science communication pieces that students created to drive positive change in their schools, here is just a small selection.

We are already starting to see the first impacts of students’ hard work, with an array of impressive initiatives to drive positive change in their schools.

  • Students at Reach British School held a flash mob and have made a commitment to no plastic bottles at school.
  • Asia Pacific Schools have launched a campaign to tackle cigarette butts in the school grounds.
  • One student at Lynn-Rose Heights even shared their data with the Mayor, and as a result, the Mississauga Department for the Environment has committed to tackling PPE pollution in the surveyed area.

What’s more, as a citizen science project, the data from the project will go on to be used by professional scientists to inform and influence decision-makers and help create even more real and lasting environmental change around the world.

ISP International Opportunities Project Manager, Beejal Parekh, said:

“We are proud of each and every one of our students for their hard work throughout this programme. The results are staggering and really shine a light on the seriousness of this issue. We are delighted to see the findings of our research being taken forward by the team at Ellipsis Earth and will keep a close eye on future developments.”

The I Am An ISP Scientist project theme in 2021 also shared a common link with the ISP Futures Programme, where the focus is on Education for Sustainable Development. The aim is to help give the next generation the skills and knowledge necessary to handle the social and environmental changes that will occur in the near future. The programme looks at the ways we, as an organisation across all our schools and offices, can become more sustainable, reduce our environmental impact, and help become change makers for a better future.

Through the I am an ISP Scientist Programme, our students have expanded their horizons to make a real difference to the world around them, equipping them to be successful in later life.

Here is what some of our students and coordinators had to say about the programme:

I think the best thing about the project is that we were all working together as a team even though everyone was miles apart from each other. Contributing to a global project with the goal of saving the environment was really special and I liked how everyone shared their results and knowledge after the project.”

The best thing about the project was learning about plastic and problems related to that and finding a long-term solution.

I felt like a real scientist doing a collaborative and good job.

I enjoyed getting to use the latest technology for a good cause.

I found out how much litter and plastic is in our communities, and neighbourhoods.

I understood clearly how to lower down the rate of rubbish and identify the reason behind why they were so much litter being seen.

I set up a picnic in my backyard without any single-use plastic and had a great time making the trifold presentation board on Plastic Pollution.

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