Seventeen schools from St Albans District in Hertfordshire came together to consider how we need to look after the earth's resources and what actions we can take today to care for our future. The event took place at Annables Farm School which opened this year and is run by FACE's Chair of Trustees Ian Pigott.
The children began by thinking what they valued and came up with ideas such as fresh air, animals, forests and oceans. They came to the conclusion that looking after people and their health was closely connected many of these topics. They then demonstrated their creativity by producing imaginative models from packaging to interpret the subject of a sustainable school. The winning group was judged to be the one which created models of sustainable transport including walking, cycling and using an electric vehicle!
Mixed groups moved into workshops to look at different subjects in more detail.
The waste group, competently led by students from the Sir John Lawes School eco-schools group, examined the principles of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and explored which one of these they felt was the most important. It was decided reducing our waste was the best solution, even though other ideas such as reusing our water bottles were valuable contributions. Recycling items to create others, they acknowledged, still involved increased energy usage.
The use of so much paper in schools was highlighted and many teachers felt it would be a good ambition to reduce the amount wasted. Other ideas included clearer signs on bins in school to make sure rubbish was recycled properly; the promotion of a competitive Green Week; a litter pick; Switch off Fortnight when a concerted effort is made to use less electricity; monitoring of school energy use; and a decorative pledge tree to encourage everyone to make changes to their habits with regard to these issues.
Pupils then started to look at how we could have a Green Christmas and came with ideas about recycling Christmas trees to make mulch for the garden before they made their own gift tags from recycled Christmas cards.
Another workshop run by the Building Research Establishment in St Albans helped children to think what forms of energy we rely on and to guess which we use most in the home. The children all guessed that refrigerators and freezers used the most energy and were surprised to learn that lighting is in fact the biggest culprit.
They then considered the differences between renewable and non-renewable energies, tackling the complex subjects of fossil fuels, climate change, biomass and solar power. Once they had grasped essential elements of these subjects, they worked together to see how energy could be saved both at home and at school and came up with a wide variety of ways including switching off monitors or even computers when not in use, rather than leaving them on standby; opening blinds and switching off non essential lighting; using water butts in the garden; composting food waste and leaves in the autumn; keeping furniture from blocking radiators; and installing solar panels.
A third workshop was run by the farmer, Ian Pigott, who demonstrated how a few seeds of each crop he grows can multiply into a profitable harvest if managed properly. Children enjoyed running their hand through the wheat, barley and oilseed rape seeds and then had the opportunity to identify which of the products in Ian's shopping trolley use the crops he grows.
Finally they went outside into the fields to take a closer look at the soil and its components and to consider all the living organisms that live in the ground.
Other workshops that the children attended included one on biodiversity in which they contributed to the establishment of a bug hotel at the venue and also a workshop on fair trade in which they explored ways in which this can benefit people in other areas of the world.
The children produced some excellent thought provoking ideas during the day and we can only hope their enthusiasm and interest will be maintained as they grow up and become the adults who will be charged with managing our planet in the future.