Launched in January 2019, the ‘You and CO2’ project was born after a chemist, a creative writer, a psychologist and a pedagogist ended up on a training course together. Group conversations during this time focused on the issue of climate change and how we could best contribute in terms of education.
We agreed that we wanted to teach climate change in a way that effects behavioural change.
With the help of seed funding, we have created an interdisciplinary climate change education programme suitable for secondary school pupils aged 12-15.
It has been designed to sit within the New Curriculum for Wales and helps students to engage with climate change in a way that encourages them to act, not just passively learn.
We’ve created a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) programme to help foster this participatory process. It aims to make children aware, not only of their carbon footprint, but through implementing creative ideas in a practical form and how they can have a positive effect on the world around them.
We've put together three interactive workshops with storytelling at the heart. The first uses maths and chemistry to help students to think about their carbon footprint.
The second workshop gets pupils to read a fictional story – set on the moon – called ‘No World 4 Tomorrow’. It has multiple permutations and endings which encourage students to think about the impact of their choices on climate change.
In our third workshop, we combine creative writing and computer coding by asking our participants to write their own story ending. We teach them the coding and ask them to write about climate change, giving them complete autonomy.
Some of the stories we’ve been getting out of the children have been incredible, with many recognising the importance of collaboration when challenging the effects of their own behaviour on climate change.
As well as running the programme in several Welsh schools, we've also surveyed 450 students across the UK to understand how they think and act to help mitigate climate change. Furthermore, we’ve had significant interest in our educational programme from individuals and organisations from around the world.
The key piece of advice for anyone thinking of undertaking a similar project would be to try and line up schools in advance. I didn’t realise how valuable that was at the start. It’s very difficult to get into schools with new curricular ideas.
Secondly, have a teacher on board from the start, who is engaged and can contribute ideas to help promote a collaborative process. It’s been lovely working with teachers along the way, getting their input and understanding how they teach their students, so that we can feed that into the programme.
Thirdly, interdisciplinary funding is hard to find in the world of academia. Most grant money is allocated to specific academic disciplines, so be prepared to look for additional sources of funding.