When considering sustainability, it is crucial to explore the notion of “shared responsibility.” In this context, it refers to the idea that all of us bear a responsibility towards the environment, whether it is you, your family, the government, your neighbours, or the local shopkeeper. It is essential that schoolchildren are taught about this and are actively engaged in this vast network of stakeholders. This involvement should not dilute their influence but rather inspire them to participate and make a positive impact.
Sustainability must be integrated into schools not only through activities designed to educate and raise awareness among children but also through a holistic, whole-school approach where everyone across the school community has a role to play in reducing emissions and raising awareness. As seen in the image below taken from our Climate Action Resource Pack, this whole school approach involves stakeholders from the wider community, parents and guardians, management and governance, and education and learning (students and teachers in the classroom).
While it remains important for adults and those in positions of power to make major decisions, empowering children to contribute their own ideas can lead to positive outcomes. Encouraging them to generate a mind map for each stakeholder, with various concepts for consideration, and then choosing the most effective ones, can help facilitate this process.
But if you get stuck, here are some ideas:
Education and learning
Why not have the class write to a local or national company to change their behaviour or products in a persuasive way and send it to them? Practice persuasive writing and environmental stewardship at the same time! Each pupil could choose their own company or as a class, you could write one! Prior to doing this, you as a class could research companies that negatively impact the environment and choose the one best suited to your values.
Governance and management
Did you know that 25% of the public sector’s building emissions in the UK come from schools (NGA, 2022)? It’s all well and good to write to other companies to ask to reduce their emissions, by why not set an example by getting an energy audit and determining areas where energy can be reduced at your school?
EnergySparks can help with this! They are an online energy analysis tool to support schools in reducing their energy consumption. Recommendations to reduce energy usage would include, insulating more, and ensuring electricity is not used when people aren’t around. Better yet, perhaps look into purchasing solar panels or using a green energy supplier at school.
Parents and guardians
Homework time! Ask the children and their families to make a list of daily actions that can be done at home to reduce their energy consumption and emissions. Bring it to class for review, which ones do you think are realistic and are there opportunities for further reduction? This could include ideas such as the parents using alternative transport to take the children to school or incorporating a meat-free day of meals during the week.
Let’s consider who is found in the wider community: this could be local businesses, neighbours of the school, suppliers of the school, and more. Why not organise a baking sale, a sponsored run/cycle, a charity auction, a cook-off or a car wash, where you can invite the community and give the proceeds to an environmental charity of your choice? This will provide another opportunity for the pupils and teachers to research which charity they would like to support, explore the difference in each of their missions and see which aligns best with what they would like to accomplish.
This is a great opportunity to make a school the climate action hub of the community, and hopefully get others involved in your efforts along the way. You can find further resources to support climate action at school here: https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/teaching-resources/.
Energy Sparks (n.d) Energy Sparks for schools. Available at: https://energysparks.uk/for-schools.
GIZ, n.d. Shared Responsibility. Available at: https://www.giz.de/en/aboutgiz/74786.html
NGA, 2022. Environmental sustainability: a whole school approach, a guide for governing boards. Available at: https://www.nga.org.uk/media/uqfcpiht/nga-environmental-sustainability-20220616.pdf
Wicked Weather Watch, 2021. Climate Action Resource Pack.