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Having previously attended several online sustainability webinars presented by people from all corners of the globe, it was our turn as the Environmental Action Research Team at Heriot’s (EARTH) on the 8th October to present our ideas on sustainability and how we learn about its many related themes at school. Previous webinars had been presented by educators, so we decided to look at ours from the perspective of the pupils. We decided to present on ‘Heriot’s Sustainability Journey’ from our achievements in the past to our goals for the future, and our online audience included pupils and teachers from Greece, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand.
Our story started in the Junior School with Mrs Wilken, Mrs Duncan and some pupils telling us about what sustainability meant to them, and how they are linking it into their Rights Respecting Schools work. We heard about the projects they embarked on to improve sustainability within the Junior School, and how they spread awareness to all pupils.
We then continued by discussing what we have done as a school about learning for sustainability. For example, we have implemented a new recycling system with a bin shed, won competitions such as the Hunter Foundation’s ‘Scotland’s Climate Champions’ competition, and integrated lessons on the environmental impacts of Fast Fashion and Smart Phones in to the Citizenship curriculum. We then went on to talk about what we are doing now and what we hope to do in the future. We feel it will be important to completely integrate sustainability into Heriot’s daily life and the discussions we have had at previous webinars will assist us with this.
Other ideas we have had for the future include a Green Careers Fair to help us all to make the links between sustainability and a wide range of different careers, and we are excited that the new Sustainability Committee will drive change from ‘the top’ using our input.
The next point we addressed was pupil experience and pupil influence. We discussed how important it was to lead with a solutions-based message and to avoid making the issue of Climate Change too intimidating or overwhelming, so that everyone sees that they have a crucial role to play.
Another point we discussed was how to make the issue seem relevant and how many ways there are to get pupils involved with sustainability. We then wanted to show how pupils have more influence than they often realise and how when they use this in an informed way, it is an incredibly powerful tool. We discussed how schools had to engage, empower and inform pupils for them to utilise their influence to its full potential. This then concluded our webinar and we went on to have an interesting discussion with those attending from topics such as what schools can do when they are just starting their sustainability journey to how best to engage parents.
We really enjoyed working on this webinar and the whole team felt that we gained valuable skills as a result of this experience, including team work, research and public speaking. We look forward to more webinars in the SusEd programme and to working with this international group in the future and seeing how the Heriot’s Sustainability Journey progresses.
Here are some quotes from the team about their experience:
“Throughout lockdown the sustainability webinars were a distraction and a way to focus on another important issue in the world. The programme as a whole has made me consider and learn new ways to include sustainability into the school. I am very fortunate and grateful for this opportunity.” – (Hannah, S3)
“I have learnt so much during this webinar series. I have been able to put myself in educators’ shoes and love that, as a group of pupils and teachers, we have gained unique insight into education in order to integrate sustainability in the best way possible. Presenting our own webinar was an invaluable experience that has developed my public speaking and leadership skills, as well as deepening my understanding of education and of sustainability.” (Lucy, S4)
“The Sus Ed webinar series has given me an increased awareness of the different approaches to tackling climate change across the world and how we can improve Heriot’s approach for the future”. (Alexander, S6)