Pupils and staff from St Mary’s in Gran Canaria. Photograph: St Mary’s

A group of Hackney schoolchildren spent six days in the Canary Islands last month to learn about the impact of plastic pollution on marine life.

The Year 6 class from St Mary’s Primary School in Stoke Newington visited Gran Canaria as part of government’s Turing Scheme, which funds opportunities for pupils in the UK to study abroad.

The trip to the Spanish archipelago was designed to teach the children what it means to be a global citizen, with a focus on sea pollution and how the United Nations is attempting to reduce it.

The children helped clean up the beach. Photograph: St Mary’s

St Mary’s headteacher Jane O’Brien said: “The children visited the local aquarium, seeing an exhibition focused on plastics in the ocean and of course seeing the wonderful sea life.

“They also worked with Spanish schoolchildren, carrying out a beach clean-up and learning more from the local council about the problem of rubbish left on the beaches and what they can do to help the environment.”

She said the pupils “watched in awe” as a pod of dolphins swam alongside their glass-bottomed boat and a when a whale made an appearance out at sea. These experiences “made us all reflect on the beauty of our world and how, without making some significant changes, future generations will not be able to experience seeing the same things”, O’Brien added.

The school also did its bit to spread the joys of cricket, buying a set for the children, who taught their Spanish peers how to play. In return, they learned a few Spanish songs and dance moves.

The group experienced the Canarian culture, eating traditional food, watching a puppet show and listening to live music.

Pupils enjoyed a trip to a local aquarium. Photograph: St Mary’s

O’Brien said: “They visited the volcano on the island and took in its beauty, standing at the top, looking over the vast crater. We thought about how we could experience more wonderful places and really make a difference to our planet.”

The headteacher described it as the “trip of a lifetime”, adding: “The children have made memories that they will talk about for years to come and they will disseminate the knowledge they have gained to the rest of St Mary’s, the local community and beyond. They now understand what it means to be a global citizen.”

For more information about the Turing Scheme, visit turing-scheme.org.uk