Europe

Schools offer pupils lessons on how to save the planet

Insulate Britain activist accuses media of 'lying' about climate change

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The self-styled Ministry of Eco Education (MEE) has partnered during this academic year with 15 primary schools to pilot new teaching materials linked to climate issues, sustainability and the environment. The school’s head teacher Nick Moss, 53, believes the curriculum is helping children “appreciate their world.” The MEE is an initiative led by Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, 60, and teachers from across Britain.

The group provides schools with resources for both teachers and pupils to explore topics such as renewables, the climate breaking down and eating plant-based diets.

They said they have “rearranged” the national curriculum around broad enquiry questions to provide the education “that is needed today”.

Pupils at Minchinhampton School, in Stroud, Gloucestershire, were the first to use the learning resources developed by environmental organisations across the UK, including the RSPB and WWF.

Nick said: “The students are enjoying nature – enjoying naming, nurturing, describing, exploring. This has always come more naturally to children but we haven’t always given them enough opportunity.

“And yet if we don’t allow them or teach them to enjoy it in all its wonder and glory, we have no hope of inspiring this next generation in their efforts to save it.”

The teacher, from Cirencester, said the school became involved with the MEE because of concern over the state of the planet.

The Daily Express has spent months encouraging Britons to do their bit for the planet through our Green Britain Needs You campaign.

Nick said: “We got involved because we are concerned, like everyone, about the climate crisis and we got involved because we are constantly searching, as teachers, for deeper and better learning.”

Minchinhampton year six student Robin Lanyon, 11, said: “Lots of children are worried about climate change but you don’t get taught anything about that in school so they don’t know what they can do to help.

“They’re just worried about it and if you’re worried about something but you don’t think you can help then you’re just going to make yourself more worried, and then it’s going to end up bad and you’re not going to know what to do.

“And then basically climate change is going to be really, really bad.”

Three quarters of teachers feel they have not received adequate training to educate students about climate change, research by the Climate Change Education has found.

Seven in 10 teachers believe there should be more teaching about climate change in UK schools while the same number of pupils want to learn more about the environment and climate change.

Geographer Paul Turner, 34, who leads on education at the MEE, believes young people need to understand the impact of human actions on the world, especially with warming temperatures and declining species.

Paul feels environmental education is “pushed to the fringes” of schools with only a small number of students participating in extracurricular activities such as a gardening club or eco clubs.

The MEE’s mission is to reach 10,000 schools – half of all primary schools – by 2025.

Paul said: “The [MEE] curriculum is built on enquiry, adventure, balance and systems thinking, all important principles young people need.

“There are lots of incredible resources and organisations available to schools which the curriculum weaves together into a holistic curriculum for schools. Schools have the potential, through the curriculum, to reach every student in every lesson.”

Organisers at the MEE hope children feel empowered and understand their own agency for making the world a better place.

Paul said: “It is important that future generations are well versed as the world continues to change and the world they grow into will be heavily affected by the climate and nature crisis.

“Schools play a central role in their communities and have the potential to help share information quickly through families.

They also have the potential to help whole communities be better prepared and more resilient for the impacts of climate change.”

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Comment by Dale Vince

When I was a kid in the early 1970s I worried about where oil came from and when it would run out. Nobody was talking about it and we learnt nothing of this in school. That bothered me.

But now there is a different problem. Owing to the climate crisis we have to stop burning fossil fuels long before they actually run out.

That’s an interesting shift, from finite resources to finite ability to use them.

This is a problem that today’s children will have to deal with but schools are still not teaching them about sustainability. So when a local headmaster told me the kids leaving his school were well rounded and ready for the world in so many ways but not when it came to the environment, it resonated. We agreed on the need for a new curriculum where environmental issues were woven into every topic.

So we pooled our knowledge from the world of sustainability and that of education to launch this new curriculum with 15 schools.

We know that kids want this too as they see the news, they have social media and the internet. They see a lot of stuff school doesn’t help them understand. They have the same concerns I had.

• Dale Vince is the Ecotricity founder

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