The 3rd Annual South Yorkshire Schools Climate Conference was held in Sheffield on 21st March. At the end of the day schools from across South Yorkshire left Victoria Hall with plans for reducing carbon emissions and encouraging biodiversity in their schools.
Over 150 school students with their teachers were attending the 3rd Annual South Yorkshire Schools Climate Conference hosted by SCESY (Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire) on 2nd March. The first face to face conference where pupils from different South Yorkshire schools – 13 primary and 7 secondary – could meet each other to discuss the Climate and Nature Emergencies. Award winning SCESY put on a programme that was packed with sustainability actions the pupils could take at school, in their community and at home.
Pupils really enjoyed the different workshops and the enthusiasm of the session leaders. Feedback received by SCESY included “I learnt a lot.”, “I got to share my ideas.”, the best thing was “interacting with other schools.”
Inspirational workshops facilitated by a wide range of experts including Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust explored rewilding school grounds, Common Thread showed how clothes can be reused and repurposed. Students particularly enjoyed examining racks of clothes they had all brought, considering which items might find a place in their own wardrobe! Foodworks helped students examine how to reduce food waste and through their School Climate Challenge Game Hope Valley Climate Action facilitated reflections on ways individuals and schools can reduce carbon emissions.
One headteacher attending the event said “Our children had a fantastic and inspiring time. They loved sharing their thoughts and ideas and enjoyed listening to all the workshop leaders and speakers”.
The Climate Psychology Alliance well-being session gave students space to express their feelings about the climate emergency and identify practical strategies to develop resilience.
Development Education Centre South Yorkshire (DECSY) helped students understand the nature of the climate emergency and what practical steps schools can take to respond to it. Schools Energy Efficiency presented an engaging workshop about online energy management app, Energy Sparks, which allows schools to monitor their carbon use and track how it is being reduced. Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, supported by Cllr Abtisam Mohammed helped students explore how democratic processes can be used to find ways to respond to the climate emergency.
South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard answered some challenging questions from students, such as ‘What are you personally doing to reduce your carbon footprint?’ to ‘How are you working to help promote green skills and jobs in our region?’ Juanita Shepherd, a policy lead for the Nature Park and Climate Action Award scheme for the Sustainability and Climate Change Unit in DfE spoke about their work to engage children, young people and their educators with nature so that they can map and monitor biodiversity on their grounds using citizen science and, critically, taking action to enhance it.
Students were moved by the account from Hafiz Anwaar Zahidy of the dreadful floods in Pakistan last year, while Yorkshire Water on behalf of the charity Water Aid emphasised the importance of water in everyone’s lives.
SCESY’s competition saw school groups display their creativity and school community passion giving judges a headache when it came to choosing winners: Meadowhead School won the secondary school category with an informative collection of items of litter found around the school site, made into a fascinating interactive exhibit; the primary category was won by Meersbrook Bank Primary with a playful and ingeniously designed home-made marble run, showing what actions lead to negative impacts and what lead to positive impacts in relation to the climate emergency.
Pupils loved Greenhill Primary’s brilliant performance of ‘Heartwood‘ a poem written by Robert MacFarlane. Author of the well-known book, ‘The Lost Words’, he sent a personal message of permission to the school.
The whole event was ably supported by 30 volunteers, drawn from SCESY, Learn Sheffield, Geography students from the University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire Climate Alliance and many others drawn to support this opportunity for the region to develop awareness of and responses to the climate and ecological emergency.
Dr Joan Miller, Green New Deal SY stated, “I had the privilege to volunteer at the SCESY event on 2nd March. I was so impressed, and I also had chance to go briefly into each of the workshops. These were interactive and high quality, also very moving. I’m looking forward to working on this with my local schools. Just brilliant!”
SCESY spokesperson Richard Souter said “Again, South Yorkshire schools have demonstrated their desire for education that includes issues relating to the Climate and Nature Emergencies. The conference provides encouragement to embed this learning into all ages and all parts of the curriculum.”
While school groups contemplated how to put their conference-hatched plans to decarbonise and enhance biodiversity in their schools and communities into action, plans were already afoot for next year’s conference. If this one was anything to go by, there is plenty to look forward to.
Many thanks to SCESY Coordinator Richard Souter for this report.