Gill Hickman, Head of Biology and Sustainability Coordinator at Ringwood School, discusses a carbon-reduction collaboration with village primary schools.

Over the past eighteen months Ringwood School students have worked with three New Forest village primary schools on a joint carbon footprint reduction programme. The programme encourages refl ection on behavioural practices and leads to reductions in school energy bills and carbon footprints.  With funding from the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, the schools received a Carbon Trust Survey, an online energy monitoring service, on-site advice from the County and peer–to-peer teaching from Ringwood students.
Ringwood’s energy team comprises students from years 8 to 13. Being invited to work with other schools was a welcome addition to their normal role of advocacy and energy monitoring within their own school. During school visits, Ringwood students worked with Year 6 children to draw up energy saving action plans. First were Angus Reid’s enthusiastic class at Morgan’s Vale School where fruitful peer to slightly younger peer discussions formed the basis for work. This was a practised Green Flag school and on our second visit, Year 6 were arguing the case for a nearby wind farm. In the light of schools’ different starting points, Ringwood students modifi ed the tasks. They were keen to invite carbon neutral villager Dan Fish to Tiptoe School. Children learnt about his totally insulated room and his self-built solar photo-voltaics that power his electric car. Their afternoon ended with a challenge: how many could fit into Dan’s G Whizz?

Our students aimed to increase energy awareness in the village schools by creating an instructional role play. This involved each going into a different role, from the earth mother to the carbon guzzling rock star, and calculating their ecological footprint in role. The younger children interrogated the Ringwood folk with perceptive questions that let them assess the number of planets each would require in accordance with their lifestyle. Children then put Ringwood students in what they perceived was ‘number of planets’ order, largely getting it right!

The Sustainable Development Fund also provided a thermal imaging camera. As an instructional tool the camera was excellent: trained adult helpers cascaded down to the Ringwood students. Together, they used it to illustrate heat loss from hands and faces before moving to the main task of identifying barely insulated windows and crevices in ageing buildings. Each school yielded its own secrets: at one school, the music room was used once a week and energy use was known to spike around about that time. The camera provided the evidence! Each school received a report and advice.

Every school involved enjoyed a day at Minstead Study Centre where Ringwood students undertook peer teaching for one day. Running an energy workshop was demanding for Ringwood students.  Becoming experts on sustainable energy sources, they carried out meter readings on Minstead’s sustainable build, and demonstrated solar and wind energy while maintaining the youngsters’ interest. Building solar cookers that allowed melting of marshmallows, using a model solar thermal device, making smoothies with an energy bike and experimenting with a hydrogen powered car certainly made energy transformations fun!
The project continues with community-based work and with each Eco team invited to produce an action plan based on their findings. Plans will be presented at a competition in June and handsome prizes are on offer.

This is what two of the students said:

Anna Skeates: “It was really interesting to talk to the junior school children about energy; they particularly liked the thermal imaging camera and I very much enjoyed working with them.

James Shelton: “In an increasingly warmer world, the energy role-play that we presented was an entertaining way to educate young students about the signifi can’t risks that global warming poses to society now and for the future. The students appeared to be inspired by the role play so much that on a later visit to survey Morgan’s Vale School using thermal imaging, I was recognised for being the vicar in the role play! They enjoyed taking infrared images using the thermal imaging camera and seeing how heat loss was represented by colours (white to blue). I think this work was a great experience for the children and I hope in the future they will help raise awareness of this global issue in the same way that I did.”

Katy Barrett: “I really enjoyed doing energy work with our local schools because it was great to see the kids understanding their energy wastage and its effect, and then seeing just how eager they were to try and change this. My favourite bit of the whole experience was using the thermal imaging camera and I was shocked at how much heat loss there was in all the school buildings. I am really pleased that these schools and their students are now working hard to make their schools and homes more energy efficient!”

For more information, please contact Gill: gillhickman@tiscali.co.uk

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This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 106).  To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.