ACS Cobham sustainability tsar: ‘Save the planet with engagement, not protest’

The sustainability coordinator of ACS Cobham International School has written six alternative activist strategies as an alternative to out-of-school protests

The sustainability coordinator for ACS Cobham International School has said teachers can encourage students to engage with issues they care about, without leaving school to protest.

Chris Hupp, who is also a form teacher, has written six tips for supporting children who want to stand up for what they believe in, in a progressive and positive way.

This comes after thousands of young people walked out of school recently in protest over political inaction about the escalating ecological crisis.

Hupp told IE: “As educators, we want students to be in school attending lessons, not out of school at a protest, when the main cause of protests is often to cause disruption. But when children feel like their voices haven’t been heard, they feel like this is what they have to do.

As educators, we want students to be in school attending lessons, not out of school at a protest

“What we need to do is engage them in school and give them the opportunity to debate in the classroom.”

Hupp is passionate about developing students who understand how to live sustainably and has been running forest school programmes for some time.

“We are in a climate crisis,” Hupp said, continuing: “We’ve lost that deeper connection with nature, especially in urban settings.

“I want to help children develop what we call an ecological identity, where they are connected to the places they grow up. We want children to grow up with a desire to protect these places.”

Hupp’s top tips

1) Encourage research

For anyone taking part in peaceful protests, it is important to read about and engage with other movements that have changed history. Research not only provides an opportunity to learn more about progressive movements, but it also helps students understand the reasons why movements like this are important.

2) Communicate with people who can create change

Writing letters to politicians and people in power is a great way to engage with those who have a direct impact or involvement with a particular issue. It also ensures that proactive action is being taken to make a change and students understand all viewpoints on an issue.

3) Create art and media

This is an effective way for all students to be able to communicate their opinions, frustrations and hopes around a particular subject. Students who can actively engage with an issue can then contribute to making a change.

4) Ask questions

Everyone should be encouraged to ask questions about issues they are passionate about so they can learn. This is especially important for children and young adults like those who took part in the walkouts on Friday. By gaining as much information around a subject as possible, students can make informed choices about how they would like to participate.

5) Learn from your experience

Reviewing the impact our actions have had on a particular issue allows us to learn from the experience.

6) Supportive networks

It is increasingly important for children to be a part of a supportive network of like-minded students. This includes parents, teachers and school leaders who can be champions. Achieving a sustainable world requires coming together, and issues around climate change can also cause distress or burnout, all the more reason to be part of a sympathetic community.

ACS International Schools is a group of four private schools, three in England and one in Qatar. ACS Cobham is a co-educational day and boarding school for children aged 2-18 based in Surrey.

Forest schools allow children to put into context ideas about nature

You might also like: Richard Cairns ‘Why I’m banning plastic at Brighton College’


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