With more emphasis in recent years on pollution, recycling, energy use and other important environmental issues, children today are learning how to look after our planet from an early age. In fact, the government see this as such an important part of children’s education that they have set up a scheme to encourage them to get more involved.
In 2006, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) introduced an awards initiative called ‘Eco-Schools’ to encourage participants to become more sustainable by implementing eco-friendly practices as part of the daily running of the school and inspiring children and teachers alike to adopt a sustainable approach when thinking about new policies.
Silver Award for Bridgetown Primary School
The scheme has proved popular and one school to really embrace it is Bridgetown Primary in Stratford-upon-Avon, where head teacher, Steve Blackman has led a campaign to attain the Eco-Schools Silver Award for achievement.
The first thing Steve Blackman did was to facilitate the setting of up an Eco Schools Team. An eco-representative from each year group was democratically elected, and a regular meeting time was established, overseen by a member of staff. This group provided a link between staff and pupils and was able to communicate progress as the project unfolded, as well as co-ordinate actions across the classes.
Environmental Audit and Action Plan
An informal review was then set up whereby pupils worked together to calculate their own carbon footprint and consider such things as:
- How much rubbish was generated within the school?
- Whether lights were left on unnecessarily.
- Were children walking or cycling to school instead of being driven, where possible?
- Was there a designated wildlife area within the school grounds?
When completed, a display was put together of the findings.
The Eco-Schools green team then wrote an Eco code for the school which was shared in assemblies and displayed in each classroom. From this, they were then able to implement their action plan. Bins were obtained from the District Council and waste paper from each classroom collected and saved for recycling, the recycling of card, glass and tin cans from the kitchen was set up, green waste from the gardens composted and energy-saving signs were put up in and around the school.
Spurred on by enthusiasm for the project, the school then joined a further national eco initiative called ‘Generation Green’ launched by British Gas in May 2008. By collecting Green Leaves (points) earned by environmental actions, the school has been able to exchange them for rewards on offer such as a camera nesting box, an integrated PC weather station and 30 tree saplings to plant an Eco wood area.
As part of Generation Green, parents could also become involved and a ‘whole school’ approach thus adopted. Additional green changes included the appointment of monitors to turn lights off and extending re-cycling to include old printer cartridges.
The Eco Team are still hard at work looking at ways to further improve the green credentials of their school and are currently bidding for electricity meters that show actual cost and usage so that pupils can accurately monitor consumption. Future goals include that of the coveted Green Flag Award (accredited by Keep Britain Tidy), the highest achievement which Eco-Schools currently offers and one towards which Bridgetown Primary School is well on the way to attaining.
Eco-Schools is an international programme and the most extensive sustainable schools project launched to date. There are currently just under 30,000 school involved across 43 countries.