University Working with Community Educators to Explore Climate Emergency

A team from the University brought together members of the teaching community from partner schools and education stakeholders for a virtual Educator Climate Assembly to consider how teachers can best impart messages around sustainability and the environment to young people. Now, the findings from this session have featured in the Discover Sustainability journal’s latest edition.

Principle organiser and lead author of the article, Elena Lengthorn, Senior Lecturer for Secondary and Post Compulsory Education at the University, said: “We wanted to look at what the role of the University is in preparing students to be educators in our climate emergency. We wanted to understand what participants felt teachers need to know, what should be in the curriculum and what that might look like in training. Information and education on this issue is clearly really important, as highlighted by the UK Government ‘Path to Net Zero’ Citizen Assembly.”

The University’s School of Education organised the online half-day event, which took place on World Environment Day, as an SOS Green Impact project, a United Nations award-winning scheme run by the National Union of Students (NUS) to support environmentally and socially sustainable practices. Organisers invited teachers, governors, senior leadership, parents and pupils in leadership or eco-council roles from partner secondary schools to take part.

Representatives from local organisations spoke to participants on five key topics chosen as the most relevant to sustainability education in schools: biodiversity, flooding, food security, mental health and physical health. Afterwards, attendees discussed, in groups, the role of schools and what teachers can do to link sustainability into the curriculum. They also explored teachers’ broader role in raising awareness.

The conclusions from these discussions were used to develop a 12-hour enhancement activity now on offer for the University’s PGCE Secondary students to enhance their learning. Organisers hope to run something similar for partner primary schools and community groups, potentially as part of the University’s annual Go Green Week, and, longer term, invite other teacher education institutions to explore the climate and ecological emergency with their own partnership schools.

“Some teacher participants were able to take the experiences from the day straight into their school roles and reported an increased knowledge and confidence in addressing our climate and ecological emergency with their pupils and colleagues,” said Ms Lengthorn. “The case study research captured on the day will be shared with participants in our inaugural Secondary PGCE ‘Education in Climate Emergency’ enhancement activity later this month.”

The School of Education was ably assisted throughout the project by a Geography undergraduate, Megan Asbury, who co-authored the article and was funded through the Green Impact Project, as well as getting expert support from Dr Sian Evans, the learning and teaching lead in the School of Science and the Environment.

Sustainability has been a key commitment of the University for more than a decade. The University won Sustainability Institution of the Year at the 2019 Green Gown Awards and went on to be Globally Highly Commended at the International Green Gown Awards, at the United Nations in New York. The University has launched a new BSc (Hons) Environmental Management and Sustainability degree programme, starting in September 2022.