How green is your school?
Liz Ainslie discusses the increasing involvement of schools with environmental topics, including pursuit of ‘green badges’.
Children are inquisitive. They are keen to learn in a variety of settings, from talking to friends, watching their parents or listening to teachers, children are always asking questions and finding out more.
At Hosking Associates, we work with a number of different types of schools across the South East. From nurseries to sixth-forms, what they all have in common is the children’s interest in learning about the world around them.
I’ve had the privilege of going into a number of classrooms to speak to children about the environment and sustainability. I’ve never met a class who were not keen to answer my questions, tell me about their experiences, or show me their recycling area!
In my work with schools, nearly every student I have met knows about recycling. Even the smallest nursery pupils can list what they recycle in their homes. On a recent visit to The Highfield Preschool in Harpenden, we were amazed and impressed that most of the 3 and 4 year olds not only had a good grasp of recycling, but could give examples from home! Sometimes, though, there is a problem when they come into their school. Recycling is a small area, often just paper, not well thought out and not really discussed. It can be a barometer for other environmental topics across a school.
This is not to say teachers and schools dont care – far from it. Many teachers I have met are enthusiastic about environmental topics and want the children to learn more too. However, there is often not a lot of time in the curriculum to go ‘off piste’ and discuss these topics.
Many schools are fighting back. Often schools now include the environment and sustainability as mainstream topics. Some schools (particularly nursery and primary ages) offer forest schools, outdoor learning and school gardens. One such school, Sauncey Wood Primary (also in Harpenden), not only runs a successful eco-group, but has student environmental ambassadors!
Heathcote School and Science College in Chingford, who are working toward an Eco-Schools badge, also have dedicated outdoor space for a school greenhouse. Outdoor gardens, greenhouses, etc are becoming more mainstream in many local education authorities, as well as acadamies and free schools.
I have been fortunate enough to be invited into schools to run special environmental education classes. Take a group of children outside to their school gardens and ask them about the plants and wildlife and you can’t stop them talking! Show children how to make a collage out of natural objects, or recycled materials, and see the excitement they have. It’s infectious!
There is the teaching side of environmental, and what I call the ‘doing’ side. Besides simply adding a module to the curriculum, many schools are reaching for eco-credentials. Some schools I encounter have an Eco Group or run a Green Week. Some schools have even achieved an Eco-Schools certification, which is an international programme to help schools with their sustainability. There are also awards for specific projects at schools in the UK, such as The Ashden Awards for ground-breaking energy projects.
Hosking Associates offers the Green Ribbon Award, which is a one-day environmental audit for schools and businesses. If the audit shows you have achieved a certain score, you are awarded the Green Ribbon to display in your building and on your website. This is a great way for you to look at your overall environmental achievements, how you are meeting your legal requirements, and how you communicate your environmental responsibilities to the staff and students in your school.
Badges and certifications are great ways to show parents, governors and others that you take environmental sustainability seriously. But of course badges don’t inspire a child to become an ecologist, or to love the world around them. Teachers with a passion for the environment, armed with the right tools to communicate this passion, are the inspiration for pupils to learn and grow.
Environmental awareness is thriving, and Hosking Associates is proud to be helping our local schools to learn about the environment. If you have any questions about how we can help your school, contact us on 020 3603 6466 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.