Get inspired: schools respond to the challenge of climate change

As the COP26 Summit continues in Glasgow, we asked teachers and school leaders across the country to share how they are doing their part in creating a sustainable future.

Giving a voice to young people

At Greatwood we have a team of Eco-Rangers, who are alumni from ages 1-6. They ran a “Waste Year Challenge” where monthly challenges are set by the Trust Leader / CEO. So far they have focused on waste crime, clothing manufacturing and reducing the carbon footprint of schools. The children also carried out their own surveys on food waste, trips to school, the use of electricity and presented further ideas for improvement and asked the school for an account.

Jonelle Yeoman, Principal – Greatwood Community Elementary and Preschool

Our students have created various innovative sustainability initiatives within the school, such as “Plastic Free Fridays” and “Meatless Mondays”. This student-led approach has enabled true ownership of the various initiatives and fully incorporates the importance of taking responsibility for caring for the world around them.

Adam Stainsbury, principal – Westerings Primary Academy

Small changes to make the school more sustainable

To encourage sustainability, each class has two “extinguishing standards” that shut down electrical equipment when not in use. We also set up paper recycling stations in each classroom, plant free trees from the Woodland Trust, and take a walk to school each week. Additionally, we had conversations with school kitchen staff about reducing single-use plastics and introducing reusable straws.

Jonelle Yeoman, Principal – Greatwood Community Elementary and Preschool

We have implemented a school-level initiative to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. We looked at the number of plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, and styrofoam cups used in the cafeteria daily and encouraged all students to keep reusable bottles. Each pupil was given a reusable Parkwood Academy water bottle and the academy became completely plastic-free.

Gemma Cottingham, principal – Parkwood Academy

Make a big statement

At school, we organize quarterly “No Electricity” days that have a huge impact on the way students think and use electricity. This quarter we organized the day to coincide with COP26 and we will spend the day getting to know the summit.

We also took inspiration from the recent Earthshot Prize, to design our Environmental Award in schools. This encourages students to come up with an idea to help the school become more environmentally friendly. We will organize an awards ceremony, which will identify two winners, who will receive £ 500 to realize their ideas.

Tom Parkin, principal – South Molton Community Elementary School

Improve biodiversity

Our students have planted over 400 trees and installed two composting areas within our school yard. We have also created a nature walk inside the wooded areas of the school. The centerpiece of the nature walk is the addition of bird boxes made by pupils that can be seen from their newly installed bird skin. In addition to encouraging nature walks, we also have “walk to school” initiatives to persuade students to go to school more sustainably by walking, riding a scooter or a bicycle.

Adam Stainsbury, principal – Westerings Primary Academy

At Ringmer we have appointed ecological representatives and have a dedicated ecological team. We have focused on biodiversity and one of our initiatives for spring 2022 is the rewilding of the schoolyard. The goal is to encourage wildlife at the site by planting hedges and orchards of native species and by digging a wetland and space for ponds.

Sarah Pillar and Emma Holmes – King’s Academy Ringmer

Engage the wider community

Some of our students have formed a climate action group, where they work closely with the city council. The group will take part in an event focused on generating a local agreement on what should happen to help combat climate change within Solihull. They also recently conducted a climate action survey, provided by the InterClimate Network, to inspire and empower the school community to tackle climate change.

Abid Butt, principal – Lyndon School

We recently hosted a Climate Summit, which was an exciting opportunity for children to hear the United Nations Climate Change Conference live and to question our leaders about the work they are doing to encourage sustainability. The students sent leaf messages to Westminster, supporting WWF schools’ “Promise to the Planet” campaign. Their messages included calling on world leaders to stop burning fossil fuels, plastic pollution and deforestation.

Angela Spencer and Margaret Land – St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Academy Trust

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