Every half-term members of the Burnet News Club explore a different issue in the news. Teachers receive a fully-resourced 6-hour scheme of work on each issue, including inspiring multimedia news content and engaging activities which can be used across the curriculum. Each issue addresses important social and political questions, and presents different perspectives and ideas to build students’ critical thinking skills. Students discuss their opinions in weekly class sessions and on this website. The current issue is extreme weather. Details here. ∫∫∫
According to UNESCO, more than 1.5 billion learners are affected by COVID-19 school closures. The pandemic has caused a health, economic, and education crisis; in the age of physical and social constraints, there is a strong need for global science literacy.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, a coalition has come together to launch Earth School to provide free, high-quality educational content to help students, parents and teachers around the world who are currently at home. Initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP and TED-Ed, Earth School takes students on a 30-day “Adventure” through the natural world. This features videos, reading materials and activities — which will be translated into 10 languages — to help students gain an understanding of the environment while considering their role within it. This is the biggest online learning initiative in UNEP’s history and is available for free on TED-Ed’s website. ∫∫∫
Have you used BBC Bitesize yet? It’s organised by key stages and subjects. There doesn’t seem to be much about the environment, although you will find some reference within subjects as it mirrors the national curriculum. We looked at the daily lesson on crude oil and hydrocarbons, but there was nothing on how burning these affects the climate. An alternative source is the Oak National Academy. You can see how they are following the national curriculum here.
A much more environment-focused media offering comes from Chicago Parent. which has 9 digital resources “to help your kids learn about the environment”. These include NASA Climate Kids, and Mission 1.5 degrees. ∫∫∫
Click here to read about the 21 new student volunteers that have joined Teach the Future to further develop its activities. The organisation has acquired another 17 organisational supporters, and has been granted £30k from two independent trusts to build the campaign over the summer. It’s been engaging with the Cabinet Office COP 26 youth engagement team and looking at how to help get education embedded in COP 26, especially through the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) agenda and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It has been helping some of its supporters engage with MPs, and had success getting thorough to Nick Gibb, the schools minister. You can see some of the issues raised here. Teach the Future is waiting for the right moment to rearrange the meeting with Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson. ∫∫∫
In its latest Schools Brief, the Economist has published the first of 6 weekly articles on the climate. These will be valuable reminders to those of us who’ve been following these events for 40 years or more, and a sobering story for those relative new to our failed attempts to curb CO2 emissions. We think that these articles will be useful for older students studying environmental issues in schools, and for their teachers too.
The first Brief, Why tackling global warming is a challenge without precedent, looks at the history of efforts to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. It starts in June 1988 when scientists, environmental activists and politicians met in Toronto for the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere. The article notes that “the change that alarmed them most was the build-up of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. In the late 1950s, when systematic monitoring of the atmosphere’s carbon-dioxide level began, it stood at around 315 parts per million (ppm). By summer 1988, it had reached 350ppm, and a heatwave was bringing record temperatures to much of North America.” For reference, the carbon-dioxide level is now ~410 ppm. ∫∫∫
The Future we Want leadership platform of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is an initiative designed to promote a global conversation amongst leaders about our long-term collective future. It is inviting leaders in business, education, government, civil society and academia to identify and debate the critical questions that need to be answered in order to enhance our understanding of what needs to change and improve decision-making to secure the Future we Want. You are invited to submit up to two questions that address system-level challenges that you feel lend themselves to constructive and transformational debate and discussion, and that may influence decision-makers now and in the future. You can do this here – why not make this a school conversation and response? ∫∫∫
New research published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Ecology finds that ash dieback is far less severe in the isolated conditions ash is often found in, such as forests with low ash density or in open canopies like hedges, suggesting the long term impact of the disease on Europe’s ash trees will be more limited than previously thought. The research looked at a 22km2 area in North-eastern France, where ash dieback was first observed in 2010. Although the environment had little impact on the initial spread of the disease, the researchers found that after ten years, the disease remained mild in many places. There is more detail here. ∫∫∫
Natural England has issued licences to three men to remove peregrine falcon chicks from nests. This is normally a criminal act punishable with a custodial sentence. The purpose of the licence is to allow the development of a population of pure-bred British falcons for falconry. As one of the men out it this is “reinstating our cultural right of access to wild populations”. There are already over 2000 captive peregrines in the UK, but these are not “pure-bred” it seems. The men will be allowed to take only one male and one female chick and must take the weakest looking young bird from a nest containing at least three birds. Such birds, Natural England’s Director of Wildlife Licensing said, would ordinarily not survive in the wild. The BTO has a paper on its website which estimates the wild population at 1,769 breeding pairs (2014 data). This represents an increase of 22% on the 2002 survey.
It’s fair to say that not everyone is happy with what Natural England has done. From an educational perspective, however, this provides dramatic insights into the clash of values that is an inevitable part of constantly having to negotiate our relationship with the rest of the natural world where cultural practices and ancient rights clash with current ideas round the sanctity of biodiversity. ∫∫∫
Solutions for the Planet is looking for virtual mentors for its teams of young people as they continue to develop their Big Ideas in the Competition. It usually has just its business partner mentors go in and help them in after school sessions, but with everything online it’s looking for more help. If you click here, you’ll find all the relevant information. ∫∫∫
Planet of the Humans is a film directed by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Michael Moore. It’s available online and takes an historical perspective. This review by Brian Czech, the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, given you a flavour of what it focus on. It is a controversial take on the development of environmental awareness and looks to be a resource for sixth form students who want insights into how we have got into our present problematic state, and how we might escape it. ∫∫∫