The environment: we’re aware but are we proactive?
Mark Stevenson, Managing Director of Bright Spark Energy, explains how schools can better involve local communities with environmental changes
In general, we all want to positively impact the environment. We are aware of the changes that are happening globally, yet, when it comes down to it, are we all really that proactive in changing our behaviours to benefit the environment?
Currently, I believe we are teaching the fundamentals of climate change and sustainability in schools to an excellent level. However, if we extend this knowledge beyond the classroom walls and into the wider community, we can transform the current reactive approach and instead, create proactive individuals in the community. This leads me to argue then, how can we better educate parents, grandparents and the community on the tiny changes they can make? With the help of schools, I believe that we can achieve this by providing various opportunities for education on the environment.
One way to better engage the wider community with school activities is through hosting workshops at different points in the academic year. Workshops can provide insightful information but in a more interactive and fun way. Scheduling these in the evening and inviting parents and members of the community along will provide the opportunity to build relationships and interact with students, all while learning about the world around them!
Workshops can be hosted within a specific department, focusing on a topic relating to the particular subject. For example, holding one in the science department looking at energy consumption or the impact of wider global issues such as the tragic natural disasters that have recently unfolded.
Another great alternative could be running an environmental workshop during a school open evening to demonstrate to prospective parents the active role the school plays in making a positive contribution towards the environment.
Forging relationships with the community
Schools often engage with the local community throughout the academic year, so why not tailor activities focused on the environment? For example, take children to visit the local allotment to learn about the process of plant growth and the importance of compost and how it contributes to wider factors including animals, microorganisms and the earth. We are all aware that hands-on learning can provide children with a more engaging experience, and this can be a great way to collaborate with the community while providing students with the opportunity to go one step further than a simple classroom activity like growing cress!
Get local businesses involved
Finally, schools can also partner with local businesses to educate children and parents. Holding workshops or talks with external organisations can help widen awareness and allow students to see how environmental factors are applied in a business sense. For example, inviting individuals from local energy suppliers or sustainability professionals to come in and speak at schools can help better educate parents and carers about how they could save energy by switching suppliers, installing solar energy or simply turning more plugs and lights off!
Continuing the learning at home
Activities can also be introduced at home! Another great way to include parents is through collaborative homework. Setting pupils tasks such as measuring rainfall in their garden or monitoring energy used in the home is another effective route in making parents or grandparents aware of how environmental policy is affecting them and the big difference they can make by making small changes in the home. This way, different activities can be investigated each term or month covering a wide range of topics. Alternatively, weekly tasks could be set with a competition focus that allows students to engage with the topic. For example, one week could focus on how much recycling a household has completed and this could be recorded in the classroom on a point basis in a fun and friendly way.
Although caring for the environment and being aware of the problems it faces is something we are all invested in, it is difficult for many adults to highlight the ways in which they are physically contributing to the efforts. Extending education to parents and carers can benefit the future generations, as well as improving the relationship between the school, parents and the wider community. The examples given may be simple in their nature, but they can be highly effective to generate greater change. Let’s create a better future for everyone, especially for our future generations!