Friday, 17 December 2010

Eco Dimension Day

Blog entries seem to be a little scarce of late, so I thought I'd do a quick report on an Eco Dimension Day I went along to on behalf of BFoE last week at Washwood Heath Technology College.

The Eco Dimension Day was the brainchild of Corinne Campbell, and the aim of the day was to raise awareness about environmental issues, such as recycling and sustainability, amongst the 11-13 year olds who attend the school. There were loads of activities lined up for the day, including re-using items to make clothes, cooking demonstrations and workshops, and animation classes. Before I arrived at the school I had no idea in which area Corinne wanted me to help out, and to be honest I was a little apprehensive, mainly as I didn't want to appear to not know my stuff in front of people half my age! After nervously sitting through an assembly (for the first time in about 10 years!), I was last to be assigned a task for the day. Luckily for me the group I was working with were looking at two of my favourite things: environmental issues and Lego. I was helping out a class who were given the difficult task of designing an "Eco Village".

The day kicked off with the students watching a few topical videos to get them thinking about what sort of ideas would need to be incorporated into the village to make it environmentally friendly and sustainable. They were then split into four groups and asked to brainstorm ideas for their village (on a side note, brainstorming these days is referred to as mind mapping, I'm so out of touch!). I was then asked to give a demonstration on renewable energy sources using a clever little model which incorporated wind, solar and hydroelectric power. It was then break time, and an exciting opportunity for me to see inside the staff room! Needless to say, once you're an adult the mysteries of the staff room are slightly less romantic than when I was a child. It in fact resembled the staff room of most places I've worked at, although they were giving out free tea, and by this point I was gasping.

After break, the students had until lunch time to design and make a model village out of Lego using the ideas they'd been discussing all morning. At first, most of the pupils set about making an ultimate village, with little regard for the environment, not believing their luck that they were allowed to play with Lego during school hours! After experiencing similar excitement, I thought I'd best interject and encourage them to think about practical issues, such as energy sources, food, farmland, and transport. Many of the pupils had areas set aside for wind farms and areas to grow fruit and vegetables. They also organised their village so everything was close by to reduce the need to use cars, and had various ideas to encourage cycling. Other ideas were not so green (one village had an enormous block of flats in the centre, possibly a first for a village?!), but the exercise certainly achieved its aim of getting the children to think about the way they live.

Next came lunch. I was unaware, but one of the perks of being a teacher is that you can push to the front of the line for a hot school dinner, so I was straight in with my healthy pizza and chips option to relive my school days further. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with an assembly where the pupils had the opportunity to display and talk about what they had been doing that day. All in all, the day was a huge success, and got everyone, both staff and students, thinking about environmental issues.

I was alarmed at how many of the students got a lift to school, even though some of them lived a mere ten minute walk away. In their defense, if offered a lift to school on a cold morning, I'm sure it's hard to refuse. However, this outlined to me that the onus lies on the parents in educating their children on the importance of being what is frequently termed "eco-friendly". The majority of the students had no idea why making short trips in a car was bad for the environment, and similarly why they should recycle and shouldn't be leaving electrical items on when not in use, to name but three. That's why this day was so important. Children need to be aware that their actions, however small, will make a difference, whether positively or negatively. So hopefully at the very least the pupils involved in the event will think about their actions and their lifestyle, as at the end of the day it will be them who will benefit from a green lifestyle in the future.