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Hawkwood Climate and Education Summit, by Lucy (S4)
The end of the beginning. This was the title for the Hawkwood Climate and Education Summit in December 2020. The culmination of many months of hard work, creativity and out-of-the box ideas. It all started back in May 2020 with a summit on ‘disrupting education for a sustainable future’. Initially meant to be held at Dollar Academy over three days, hundreds gathered over Zoom for discussions and talks from experts on the climate and education and from business leaders. Following this it was decided that we needed to continue the discussion further, so our bi-monthly sustainability education webinars began.
A truly international group with members from Jerusalem, America, Switzerland, New Zealand and Scotland among others, we explored some big questions, including: how to best to engage pupils and equip us with the self-direction and skills needed to tackle the ‘wicked problem’ of Climate Change; and how to bridge the gap in an unequal society. Some webinars focused on the theory of education – how do we utilise tools such as experiential learning and project-based learning to achieve our goals? While others focused on how to engage the entirety of a school community so that every pupil and teacher is involved. A group from EARTH (The Environmental Action Research Team at Heriot’s) presented part of Webinar 5. We spoke about what it was like to be a school pupil with the issue of climate change hanging over our heads and what teachers could do to ensure every pupil was able to use their voice to bring about meaningful change. It was a great opportunity to share our Heriot’s journey and discuss what we could do next with others attending the webinar.
After seven webinars, it was time for our concluding summit. Again, due to COVID-19 an in-person meeting was not possible, so we turned to Zoom once more. Had we been able to, we would all have met at Hawkwood in Gloucestershire, which is a centre for future thinking that incorporates nature and its beautiful grounds into many of the courses it holds there. In the morning session of our summit, we reflected on the webinars as each presenter gave a distillation of the essence of their webinar and the actions they were taking forward from their webinar. Following this we exited into breakout rooms for discussion about what each group believed to be the key questions raised by the webinars. I was lucky enough to be in a group with an educator from Greece, a kindergarten teacher from Bethlehem and a human rights lawyer from Jerusalem. Coming from such different places and backgrounds we were able to expand our ideas and think in a broader way. We focused particularly on engagement and how inequalities can affect this and what we can do about it. Being such a diverse group, it is no surprise that our conversation came down to the concept of collaboration. Only if we collaborate properly can we effectively engage those from different backgrounds and those who believe sustainability will affect their income or lifestyle negatively.
During the evening session every person attending was able to share their reflections on the day (and the other webinars) and then share their personal and professional/student commitment to action. In order to keep us accountable we sent these to one of the organisers who will send them back to us in three months’ time to ensure we are honouring our commitments. Personally, I pledged to use more public transport and to use my influence and my voice to make change in our school community and our local community. It was great to hear what people were planning in their own lives and contexts and to see what actions the webinars had inspired.
When reflecting on the webinar series I felt a real sense of gratitude. To be part of such a diverse group that enabled us to think ‘big’ was such a brilliant opportunity and I am very thankful. It was the first time I had looked at school from an educator’s perspective and it has given me a new insight into education and sustainability. I am able to look at sustainability in a completely different way now and various discussions have given me so many new ideas, particularly the conversation in the breakout rooms. Being part of the team that presented our own webinar allowed me to distil my ideas about sustainability and develop my public speaking, leadership and communication skills which are key skills for the long term. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part and know that we will continue our network and hopefully all meet in person one day. That is why the title the ‘end of the beginning’ is so apt. While it may be the end of our webinars, it is definitely the beginning of positive change.
Lucy is part of the EARTH team at Heriot’s and and spoke so passionately at the Youth Climate Summit last year, discussing the current climate crisis and the importance of a sustainable future can view Lucy’s full speech, from the Youth Climate Summit here.