Mertle’s plastic pilgrimage gets a positive reaction

As we mark Science Week, Kristi Pritchard-Owens discovers a Sydney high school with the perfect formula for creating competitive science-based short films.

A group of students with a teacher either side smiling at the camera with water in the background A group of students with a teacher either side smiling at the camera with water in the background
Image: Winning formula: Teachers Natalie Bell and Rodney Plashchik with their students.

Science is not just about formulas and facts, it can be a creative process - as a group of Sydney high school students has discovered thanks to their teacher.

Sydney Secondary College has “pipetted” the opposition to take out the Australian arm of the International Science Drama Competition ­- which aims to encourage the use of storytelling to promote scientific ideas.

“I am always looking for opportunities to collaborate with teachers from other subject areas and incorporate the performing and creative arts into my teaching,” Sydney Secondary College teacher Natalie Bell said.

“When I heard about the opportunity for my marine class to participate in the competition, I jumped at the chance, and it was amazing that (Balmain Campus drama teacher) Rodney Plashchik and his drama students wanted to join forces with us.”

The collaboration has revealed that students from the Balmain Campus have a definite flair for combining the two subjects.

The school entered four teams in the Short Film Category, and they took out the top four spots.

Mertle’s Plastic Protocol placed first, and will now represent Australia at the international grand finals.

“We wanted to focus on the impact of plastic pollution on one species and on one main character, hence Mertle the Turtle,” student James Kelly said.

“Plastic pollution is harming our marine life.

“Plastic pollution is incredibly problematic, and it is a global issue that will impact our futures.”

The group of nine students created their film to tell the story of Mertle the Turtle who is very upset with how humans are treating the ocean.

She decides it is time to make a stand and make her way to the UN to convince it to act – through song.

“A song is more entertaining than someone spitting scientific facts at you for five minutes straight,” James said.

“Our target audience was not only the judges of the competition but also students, so we made the song fun and upbeat.”

The theme for the 2022 competition is ‘Our Seas and Oceans for the Future’ with Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand competing alongside Australia.

Students will present creative work on issues including sustainable aquaculture, protecting the environment and biodiversity, food security, and prevention of overfishing.

The International Science Drama Competition 2022 Grand Finals will be hosted by The Mind Museum in the Philippines and held over Zoom on August 27-28.

To see ‘Mertle’s Plastic Protocol, visit https://www.aspacnet.org/isdc2022 and scroll down to the ‘Short Film’ section of the Official Entries.

You can also vote for the People’s Choice, using the ‘vote for your favourites’ button before August 24.


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