The DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) has reported that schools produce 15% of Britain’s total carbon emissions. They also educate future business people, politicians, homeowners and activists. It is of the utmost importance that they play a large role in the climate revolution.
The DCSF Sustainable Schools Act 2008 asks for all schools to be able to define themselves as sustainable by 2020, setting out 8 doorways through which schools can improve. OFSTED also look favourably upon on this. Sustainability should therefore be included in school action plans. These can link with other targets relating to, for example, community links, economic wellbeing and Every Child Matters. Activities on a green theme offer pupils chances to improve oral and discussion skills, and are unique fun ways of learning.
For any school new to eco initiatives, it’s a great idea to start with a pupil-led activity that involves the whole school and leads to an impressive visual display. One of the best ways of doing this is to ask all pupils to pledge to do one thing to combat climate change. Form time provides an excellent opportunity for such activities. At Yardleys School, pupils’ pledges were written on ‘leaves’ and displayed on a giant ‘tree’.
Yardleys’ Pledge Tree
Why not combine the Healthy Schools initiative with Eco Schools? A school allotment or roof garden can provide food to the school canteen with waste being composted and used.
Projects showing where food comes from or looking at the environmental costs of production are excellent tools and can be suitable and engaging for all ages.
Recycling should be made a priority in any school where it’s lacking. Contact your local council for information. If a cost is involved then why not hold a fund raising activity?
Projects tracking where waste ends up can also be engaging for pupils who have probably not considered what happens beyond the bin. There is an excellent Story of Stuff video available on You Tube.
Pupils will be more likely to care for the global environment once they have learned to take care of their local environment. Offer them chances to take part in litter picking, graffiti cleaning or gardening projects. Seek funding from local businesses to create a wildlife-learning environment and involve pupils, parents and staff in design, building and maintenance. If pupils are themselves involved, graffiti and damage will be reduced.
Contact with schools in other countries can be run on a green theme – how is climate change affecting them? You could ask about materials, recycling and energy.
Schools should seek to source renewable energy or use a provider with a green tariff. There are organisations that will fund schools to build solar or wind turbines. Work out the financial benefits and show them to the budget manager. The Carbon Trust offers free carbon footprint surveys.
Primary schools are leading the way on transport by holding walk-to-school days or weeks and walking busses. A green merit system will be introduced at Yardleys to reward tutor groups with high numbers of walkers, cyclists and bus users and those taking part in Eco-activities and pledges.
All of these activities can provide excellent curriculum-linked learning opportunities. CABE provides a booklet of activity ideas for all subjects to support Green Week every year in June ending on Green Day. During this week pupils receive lessons across the school on a green theme.
You can get ideas and support from local organisations such as the Forest Schools Programme, Centre of the Earth and TIDE. Charities like Friends of the Earth, the Vegan Society and Oxfam offer excellent resources with local speakers.
At the end of the school year, Yardleys holds an Eco-fair to raise money for Eco-projects. All materials for stalls are made out of reclaimed or recycled materials. Stalls include wind farm (treasure) hunt, roll a penny, video diaries, guess the endangered species (teddy’s) name, plant sale, and jewellery making. We found that in order to engage all pupils, some stalls needed to be free and a quiz with answers on each stall worked well.
Obviously, schools can’t take on all of this at once and there are so many organisations now bombarding schools with green activities and ideas. So it’s important to prioritise the most achievable and measurable activities and pace yourself!
Many schools are now demonstrating excellent sustainability models that would rival most businesses. Ask if you can visit them. If you’re not a teacher or pupil, don’t be afraid to contact your local school to enquire about activities and offer assistance.
Ten Top Tips
Sign up to the Eco–schools programme and work towards the awards
Contact the sustainability officer of your local council for assistance
Search NGO and charity websites for ideas and resources
Organise fun, engaging, sustainable fund raising activities
Engage pupils by holding Green Days/Weeks and competitions
Try to work out the carbon footprint of your school
Rally support (cakes work well!)
Invite outside speakers
Don’t take on too much at once!