Oh what treasure can be found in plastic #captainfanplastic @soapboxsouthafrica

By: Melissa Baird

At the end of 2018, Soapbox South Africa launched an educational programme called Captain Fanplastic, that contributes to the UN’s 14th Sustainable Development Goal. The learning objective is to create a mindset that plastic is #NoTrashButTreasure. The call to action is to pick it up, reuse or recycle it.

The programme starts with a story that local facilitators share. The Legend of Captain Fanplastic is read to the learners and the beautiful illustrations make the story of the captain and his turtle, Fin come to life in a world the learners can immerse themselves in. After the story the teaching of new habits begins, focusing on the why it is vital to reduce the use of plastic, reuse and recycle it.

With this foundation the fun challenge begins, and the children are encouraged to get creative and, guided by project’s facilitators they begin to craft various items from the story, like their very own Captain Fanplastic eye-patch and Fin, the Turtle.

Then they move on to the cleaning phase and go on their first “treasure” hunt in areas around their schools. Armed with treasure maps they record what they find and collect the plastic booty which is then weighed, and prizes are given to the most successful little pirates.

This careful build up from the graphic story towards the reality of an environment polluted by plastic litter helps to encourage behaviour change. All parts of the programme link back to the story, which enables the children to truly understand, believe and become part of the solution. It not only changes the perception of young children towards plastic, reducing littering and stimulating recycling in the long run, but also removes plastic from their surroundings.

The programme measures its impact in three ways:

  1. At the start a baseline measurement is conducted to grasp the knowledge of the school class about plastic pollution. At the end of the programme facilitators do a follow-up to measure what the impact has been.
  1. During the treasure hunt the children pair up and document everything they find on a Captain Fanplastic treasure map, which records valuable data about the type of plastic that is found in South Africa. These locations (e.g. beaches, river banks, etc.) will often be situated around disadvantaged areas, with less resources and capacity to tackle the problem.
  1. At the end of the treasure hunt, facilitators weigh the amount of treasure every group has found and the plastic is collected by recycling partners like @PlasticsSA.

The story can be adapted to any cultural landscape and, as a result, the aim is to scale up the outreach potential of the initiative. The plans for 2019 include translations in IsiXhosa, Afrikaans and Portuguese.

The use of graphic storytelling and gamification is very positively received by the 8 – 12-year-old target group and Captain Fanplastic has already set sail for one thousand classrooms in South Africa.

You can support a school to get the materials, email: partners@captainfanplastic.com    

About Soapbox South Africa:

This Cape Town based marketing agency helps social enterprises and corporate companies improve their social and environmental impact in Africa.

Schools can invite the captain to their schools by emailing: schools@captainfanplastic.com