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Bringing energy and climate adaptation to the classroom

A map on a classroom table with hands pointing to different places.

With support from South Gloucestershire Council, we’ve been bringing the energy system into classrooms of over 600 pupils in 20 primary schools across South Gloucestershire.

 

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is commited to inspiring and supporting young people in climate action through our Future Generations programme. As part of this, we’ve been delivering energy workshops to local primary schools, supported by South Gloucestershire council. Tess and Kate have been running the project. Here they reflect on what they’ve learned during their time in the classroom …

When we were first asked to deliver climate change and energy workshops for primary schools we thought — how are we going to engage young kids about energy and climate change from a laptop screen? When we were seven, we didn’t have smart boards or Zoom. The idea of a lesson delivered online would have seemed completely alien to us! And though there was some awareness of global warming when we were at school, neither of us remembers this being a big focus. We were slightly daunted by the prospect of reaching 20 schools, so we put our heads together to come up with the most engaging, fun and educational workshops we could think of. 

Teaching energy in primary schools

CSE has a strong background in working with schools and young people. Building on this experience, we set about creating content for the workshops that would allow pupils not only to learn about energy and climate change, but also get them to think creatively about how our future might look. What would they like to see in the schools, homes, and neighbourhoods? We also made sure we implemented fun interactive elements to keep the pupils focused. We asked the pupils to boo every time they heard us say “fossil fuels”. They were so enthusiastic we thought they might blow our laptop speakers!    

The workshops have been a smash hit. We’re so excited to see young people taking a role in climate action. The pupils have been full of ideas and questions. It’s clear they’re ready to start pushing for change in their schools, homes, and communities. 

Meanwhile, teachers have told us it’s supported them in their lesson planning and helped provide content for their geography, science and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) classes. 

We normally look at Yate in the past and present, but now I hope to integrate what the children would like Yate to look like in the future.

Year 6 teacher, The Ridge Junior School, Yate, South Gloucestershire

This was a very useful introduction as it provided the children with an ‘orientation’ of the subject matter. For my class, it also provided a good opportunity to revisit some key vocabulary and key concepts taught in Year 4 science.

Year 5 teacher, Christchurch Hanham, South Gloucestershire.

Young people want climate action today

As a result of these workshops, pupils across South Gloucestershire are thinking of different ways they can act as a school and are asking the adults around them what they want to see changed. 

They’re curious about how energy works and are eager to learn more about renewable energy. Some pupils are even taking on the role of class ‘eco monitor’ to make sure lights are turned off on sunny days and to encourage their classmates to think about their own energy usage.

Pupils from my class have already asked for litter pickers, left a note for our head teacher, and are planning to form a ‘green group’ to educate younger children.

Year 5 teacher, Wick Primary School.  

Taking it to the next level

It doesn’t stop there! Some pupils have even taken their ideas to the next level by writing a persuasive letter to their board of governors, the House of Commons, and the Prime Minister about what they’ve learned from these workshops and the climate adaptations they’d like to see in their local area. 

And guess what? They received replies from each, helping them to see how their ideas could shape change.

Through these workshops, we’ve seen that pupils understand the impacts of climate change from an early stage in their education, and it’s clear that teachers want to support their pupils’ learning and help them to imagine what could be possible in the future.

If we’re to reach our collective net zero targets, we need action from just about everyone in society, along with businesses and governments. So, it’s important that we listen to the pupils’ ideas and offer them ways to put them into action, whether it’s in their classroom, at home, or in their wider community. We need to channel the wisdom, energy, and enthusiasm we see in young people into environmental change. 

We’re excited to see what else these pupils will come up with, and we can’t wait to work with South Gloucestershire Council again to deliver more of these fun, engaging and impactful workshops in the future. 

They really enjoyed the map of our local area, finding their own houses, etc. and it made placing the items on the maps very productive and successful.

Year 5 teacher, Wick Primary School.  
A map on a classroom table with hands pointing to different places.
Children taking part in a mapping exercise, imagining positive environmental changes that could be made in their local area.

About our workshops

During our interactive lessons, pupils learn the basics of global warming, our energy use, fossil fuels, and renewable energy. We’ve got a range of fun activities including our ‘What uses Watt’ class challenge to conserve energy. And creative challenges like developing a realistic map of the local area to build wind turbines, solar power, active transport, and green spaces, and improve the resilience and climate adaptation in their community. 


We are delighted to have secured further funding to deliver climate change and energy workshops for primary schools in South Gloucestershire in 2023-24.

Interested in having a workshop at your South Gloucestershire primary school?

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