Ahead of COP26 over 4000 pupils from 130 schools in 13 countries took part in the ECO2 Climate Conference to learn about COP (conference of the parties) and how other schools from around the world are experiencing and adapting to climate change.
All participating schools were provided with an education pack, available to view and download in English, German, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi and French. Each of the nine lessons included a lesson plan, PowerPoint, supporting resources and links to short films created by Durham University Professors. All the resources are available to view and download on the ECO2 Smart Schools website and the short films can be viewed on the OASES YouTube channel.
A legacy booklet has been created to provide a platform for the voices of the young people who took part in the ECO2 Climate Conference. The booklet contains the young people’s thoughts and feelings about climate change, how they are experiencing it and their requests for governments, local authorities and schools. It also contains a message of hope, showcasing the fantastic work that schools around the world are doing to take action against climate change. The legacy booklet is available to download on the ECO2 Smart Schools website.
After completing the education pack, in October 2021 participating schools represented their country at one of the ECO2 Climate Conference virtual events. During the event, the young people were challenged to think about the issue of climate change and explore each other’s experiences of it. They had the opportunity to ask questions to a panel of Durham University and Durham County Council climate change experts, create a pledge of climate change action and share their thoughts and feelings about climate change in a live poll. A recording of both events can be viewed on the OASES YouTube channel and you can view the expert panel questions and answers on the ECO2 Smart Schools website.
Students taking part in the ECO2 Climate Conference also had the exciting opportunity to enter the ECO2 Climate Conference Photography Competition. They could submit a photograph showing either: an image of concern – depicting their thoughts and feelings about climate change; or an image of hope – demonstrating the actions that they/their school or their family are taking to combat climate change.
We were so impressed with all the images that we received that we called upon environmental and wildlife photographers Oliver Sherratt and Brian Matthews to judge the competition.
All the winning images can be viewed on the ECO2 Smart Schools website, along with the runners up and other fantastic entries.
Each of the winners received an exciting prize, thanks to Durham County Council and Durham Energy Institute. The two UK winners attended COP26 in Glasgow on Youth Day (Friday 5th November) where they enjoyed exploring the green zone with OASES project officers, especially the interactive exhibits
The ECO2 Smart Schools Programme has been supporting schools in County Durham since 2010. Due to the pandemic and school lockdowns and restrictions in 2020-21 we were unable to deliver the in-school support we normally would. So we had the idea of small virtual conference for schools to share their ideas and learning about climate change.
This idea expanded into an international schools conference as we had conversations with the Durham International Office and Durham University colleagues and created a whole suite of COP 26 related educational resources including short films from Durham University experts and lesson plans for primary and secondary school lessons developed by OASES.
We used existing networks and contacts to engage with the international schools which helped with the communication. One complication was the different holiday periods across the different countries which made communication and planning difficult at times.
The virtual events ran twice (one morning and one in the afternoon) to enable as many international schools to attend as possible, given the time differences. The conference programme was designed to best use the talents of the organisations involved and include as many opportunities as possible for young people to ask questions of the organisers and ensure that the wishes and asks of the young people of their school; local authority and governments were included and collated.
We also secured a keynote speaker who now works for a government department but was formally a student at Durham University and a youth climate campaigner to inspire the pupils about how climate education can lead to an exciting career path.
In terms of key learning its being realistic about the amount of time its takes to co-ordinate a multi stakeholder conference - it always takes more time than you originally predict. The other key element is to maximise the experience and skills of the partner organisations, plus hold regular short planning meetings to ensure actions and timeframes are met. When running a virtual event ensure you have good IT support and platform that is easily accessible for participants. We used Teams Live.
- The development of the partnership between Durham County Council, Durham University and Outdoor and Sustainability Education Specialists which collectively delivered a high quality programme.
- Number of schools involved (130), and number of pupils involved (4,000).
- Amount of high quality resources that are freely available to schools/ educators anywhere in the world, translated into a number of languages.