Building the climate champions of the future – snapshots from a London classroom
As part of a broader approach to sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Globalfields has been active in financing activities to support local communities in London and abroad, including sponsorships for local football (soccer) teams to aid membership and purchase of equipment for those children who could not otherwise afford the fees; career events in schools to promote the importance of a healthy environment and clean energy; recent support to several charities for humanitarian responses in Ukraine; and more recently, regular lessons for primary school children, to ‘build’ the climate champions of the future: children!
Since last year, Liz Wilson (Lead Editor and Administrator at Globalfields) has been going into primary school classrooms to teach children about climate change, environmental sustainability and how they can help make the future a brighter place.
Here is a first-hand view of Liz’s interactions with children:
As I walk into the room, we spot a chameleon’s tail sticking out of my bag - “What’s that, Mrs Wilson?” question the class. “You will see in a minute”, I say.
I have come to Chartridge Combined School in north-west London to teach children a weekly lesson on climate change. Today I am in Year 5 and we are covering the perils animals face in their environment. With me, I have a penguin, a parrot, a turtle and a chameleon, whose tail is still sticking out my bag.
I tell the children about the rainforests and the very special environment created under the leafy canopy for the animals to thrive in. Any change to that temperature can wreak havoc on the animals' breeding and survival, I explain.
We start with the chameleon, and I ask the children to put their hands up if they can guess what threats it faces. 30 hands shoot up in the air! The first child tells me how we are cutting down the rainforest which could negatively affect the chameleon’s habitat. She is right, and I go on to tell her that the problems reach even further. A chameleon’s eggs will only hatch at a very specific temperature, and different temperatures are needed for the females and the males to hatch. We talk about how impossible it will be for the chameleons to live much longer if only male eggs are able to hatch. As one child points out “There won’t be any mummies to have the babies” and I decide to leave the mating conversation there.
Next, we have a think about the turtle. The children remember the YouTube video we watched last week All the Way to the Ocean - Bing video.
One of the children tells me the turtle could eat a plastic bag, thinking it is a jellyfish. I am glad they remembered last week’s lesson – the children love guessing about the animals and seamlessly link their previous knowledge with some hand-on experience. One of the children then points out my cuddly turtle is in fact a tortoise – I make a mental note to myself to upgrade my props. He is right, the tortoise- turtle needs flippers!
Once we have gone through all the animals, a few of the children want to tell me their stories of animals they have seen or helped, and so we take five minutes to have a classroom chat where the children are free to tell their stories. My personal favourite came from the child who saved a bird the previous week by taking it to a local animal shelter in a cardboard box and the father calls the shelter each day to find out how their little friend is recovering. Any interaction the children have with wildlife is hugely beneficial. In a world with too much screen time, interaction with wildlife is becoming rarer and all the more valuable.
In order to introduce the next subject of plastic in the sea, I ask a child to find one thing in the room which is not made of plastic – he has a hard job, as everything is plastic or plastic coated. Finally, he finds a board rubber made of wood, but not before walking around the room several times. This exercise even surprises the teachers in the room, as we take for granted that pretty much every object around us is made from plastic – wherever you are reading this article, look around you! I explain to the poor child that even his school jumper had plastic in it (which led into a micro-fibre discussion, more rubbish to end up in the sea!)
We watch another video on YouTube, which one of the children in the class asked to see last week, so I researched it. It is a You-Tuber who is helping to clean up the seas, perfect viewing for Year 5 children. They were able to view a beach completely covered in plastic rubbish. After two days the beach was cleaned up thanks to the work of several volunteers, and now you can really see how beautiful the beach is, once all the unsightly rubbish has been removed. This kind of exercise is great to watch as we can often feel powerless when we try to make a difference. Watching a team of people get the job done together in such a short timescale and make a huge and visible difference, is really encouraging for the children.
I explain to the children that no matter what action they make to help the planet, it will never be wasted, and a lot of change can come from many people taking small actions. I told them if one of them turned off the water when they were brushing their teeth, the water would be turned off for a minute. If the whole class did that, the water would be turned off for 30 minutes, if the whole school did it, the water would be turned off for 4.5 hours! Of course, if they do it every day for a week that is over 30 hours of running tap water saved. This kind of figures make the children’s eyes wide as they realise they have collective responsibility and, most importantly, agency to make a change.
Next week, we are all going to make a climate pledge, where we all decide on one small action we can change in our lifestyle, which will make a positive change. I often suggest actions such as: turning the tap off while brushing teeth, using a water bottle each time they go on a trip to avoid buying plastic bottles or making sure their parents remember to put their bags in the car before a shopping trip.
One little boy at this school in Year 2, went one step further with his saving water action – his Mum caught me in the playground to tell me he had decided to stop washing – one week and counting! He may have enjoyed his climate class a bit too much!