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This is not a new story. Some of you may have heard it before. However, all good stories are worth hearing twice, so….

There has been a great storm at sea, and all along the beach there are starfish washed up, stranded high above the tide line. Not just one or two, or five or ten. Thousands and thousands of starfish, starfish coloured, orange and purple and red and yellow. All of them stuck. All of them needing to get back to the sea.

Now, also there are two friends walking along the beach, looking at the starfish. They are terribly sorry to see such a sight. One walks sadly with his hands in his pockets. The other bends down, with every step he bends down, and he picks up a starfish and throws it back into the sea.

The trouble is, when the friends look around, they can see no improvement. There are still thousands of starfishes stranded behind them and thousands of starfishes stranded in front of them. The person with his hands in his pockets shakes his head, and he says, ‘Don’t wear yourself out. Don’t keep bending and throwing. There are so many here, what difference can it make?’

But his friend laughs to hear him, and he bends down again, and picks up another and throws it as far as he can into the sea.

It makes a difference to that one!’ he says.


[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Choose which friend you would like to be.

[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Make a post card, a picture on the front, a message on the back. What will be the bad news? What will be the good news? What can you draw for the picture on the front?

Find out:

3. What use is a starfish anyway? Is it part of a food chain? What does a starfish eat? What animals would eat a starfish? What animals would be less well fed if there were not any starfish in the sea?

Think about the story:

We are not all on a beach. Here in a classroom, we cannot rescue starfish. What can we do to help the creatures in the sea?

What is the biggest danger you have heard of for sea creatures recently?

I have heard plastic pollution is causing lots of trouble. I have heard, for instance, of a whale that died because it had eaten eighty plastic bags.

How many people in this class? How many plastic bags each is that? Three or four? Suppose you and your families each saved or picked up or recycled a plastic bag every week. How long would it take this class to collect enough plastic bags to save a whale?

Can you see, it’s like the starfish story? No one can save all the starfish, but each of you can make a difference. If you work together, you can make a big difference. You can make a whale size difference!

For the future:

What can you do to help the creatures in the sea? Could you make a plastic bag bank for your classroom with spare clean plastic bags in it, for people to use again?

Note from Hilary:

I help with school parties at my local wildlife trust. The children bring packed lunches. There is a Packed Lunch Challenge where at the end of lunchtime we collect up all the crisp bags, yoghurt pots etc, and weigh them. The school with the least weight in grams per person is the winner.

You could adapt this for a class by doing eg. a weekly weigh in. You could chart how the weights go down week by week, as people get more and more ingenious about bringing plastic free packed lunches. Or divide the class into two ocean teams, starfishes and whales etc.

Just a thought, H

Hilary McKay is the award-winning author of The Skylarks' War

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