We are all aware that young people are the future of our planet - making sure that they are educated to know and care about the big issues facing their generation is vital.
Creating Changemakers is a project organised by Warwick Enterprise (at the University of Warwick), and funded by the University's Food Global Research Priority group. It was led by Debbie Smith from Warwick Enterprise, with the support of four student/recent graduate Project Officers, Sophie Kitching, Daveena Saranna, Alfie Smith, and Ellie Hayter.
The project involves the delivery of short one to two-hour workshops to classes of Years 5 and 6 children in primary schools local to the University. Workshops aim to engage the children with general concepts of sustainability, before focussing on specific issues relating to food, like carbon miles. Examples are then provided of how they can make a difference in their own lives.
It aims to fill in gaps in the school curriculum, allowing children to engage with these concepts at a greater depth, and benefit from the knowledge and enthusiasm of passionate sustainability-focussed university students.
The general structure of the workshop is as follows:
1. Introduction to sustainability.
2. Why is it important?
3. Introduce the concept of food sustainability, including fun activities and games, eg. Top Trumps.
4. What small steps can they take to be more sustainable?
5. Showcase examples of what our students have done on campus to promote food sustainability, and get the children to start considering some of their own ideas.
6. Poster competition for the best ideas, with book vouchers as prizes.
Image: Unsplash stock image, Element5 Digital
This has long been a passion project that I've wanted to deliver and then I saw some funding: (an opportunity) Food GRP, The University of Warwick that meant I could get the financial resource to make it happen and also tie this project into my current role at The University of Warwick in Warwick Enterprise. Therefore project success was supported by: strong brand recognition, Institutional buy-in, time, funding and access to expertise.
I'm so glad we've done this initiative. To see first-hand how Schools have wanted to engage their children with sustainability and then see how the children have engaged during these workshops has made the time and effort worthwhile.
We had very short time frames due to funding, so it meant we had to deliver this project extremely quickly.
If resources allow, get other people engaged who are equally as passionate as you are to drive projects forward. I enjoyed co-creating the workshop with Warwick students and graduates: Sophie Kitching, Daveena Saranna, Alfie Spencer, and Ellie Hayter, who all have expertise in sustainability. Their passion shone through and it was a real pleasure to work together to develop the concept into a tangible workshop. This opportunity also offered paid employment for these students/graduates and they all expressed how much they enjoyed being involved and it supported their CV development/career aspirations.
The best advice to anyone wanting to start a similar project is to expect the unexpected, and be prepared to have to make last-minute changes to plans as a result of external circumstances. We were attempting to arrange face-to-face delivery to large groups of children during a global pandemic and this of course brought challenges, for example with some classes needing to isolate on the morning that we were intending to deliver the workshop. The pandemic also made it more challenging to get schools on board, but, as ever, perseverance was key, alongside adapting our planned activities to include relevant safety measures. While these challenges were very specific to our project, I think they also serve to highlight some more general advice - it's vital to make sure you 'stick with it', remember what you're trying to achieve, while also remaining open-minded on how to adapt to circumstances.
Also, don't forget about evaluation. Our evaluation allowed us to prove project impact to funders, which helped us obtain further funding for project continuation.