Queen Elizabeth II High get motivated following Gambia trip
18 April 2012
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Our project was inspired by a trip to Gambia with Concern Universal (CU), where we saw first-hand the impact climate change is having. We came home determined to educate people about how to, and why they should, reduce their carbon footprint. Whole-school initiatives have begun to reduce the school’s carbon emissions.
As a result of our efforts the school is now ranked first out of more than 14000 schools for sustainable credentials in EDF Energy's programme for greener schools the Pod, who are currently partnered with Eco-Schools England. We have raised £3000 for Concern Universal so they can continue their work to help those affected by climate change.
Last year, six pupils embarked on an once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Gambia, to see the work of developmental charity Concern Universal. Two of the most significant issues that we learned about were salinisation and desertification, and we came home determined to do our bit to stop these problems, both of which are exacerbated by climate change.
We're trying to reduce our school's environmental impact, educate people about climate change and how we can reduce our carbon footprints, and fundraise for Concern Universal, who help victims of climate change.
Delivering the project
Several initiatives have been implemented at school, tackling climate change:
Some are whole-school projects, for example, a battery-recycling scheme (with the help of the Pod's recharge your batteries activity) has begun to give students an alternative to binning used batteries.
Another example is the Pod’s ‘Switch On to Switching Off’ activity, which is helping reduce our school’s carbon footprint by teaching people about the importance of switching off lights and appliances.
There are now recycling boxes in every classroom, minimising paper waste.
An award-winning tree-planting scheme has been implemented; over 4000 saplings have been planted, aiming to completely cancel out the school’s carbon emissions.
We’ve also held meetings with the local bus corporation, ensuring that bus travel is a viable option for children who have previously been driven to school.
An Eco-Committee has been established, with representatives from every year, who pilot the initiatives.
We’ve found that since we started telling people about the impact climate change is having in countries like Gambia, students have been keen to make individual contributions too.
There have been bake sales, with all profits going to Concern Universal (CU), and the Gambia group have run assemblies and talks, and have organised a ‘Gambian Evening’, with food, music, quizzes etc., to fundraise for CU.
We’ve been educating the wider community, appearing on national radio discussing issues affecting the Third World, and doing articles for the local press, which have received a very positive response.
Also, a series of blogs about our experiences in Gambia have were promoted on the CU website, and reached an international audience.
Hopefully by the project’s end we’ll have cancelled out the whole school’s carbon emissions, including those produced by students’ travel to school. Every child should be aware of their own environmental impact, how to reduce it, and how their actions affect people around the world.
Getting the pupils involved
In Gambia, we (the students) interviewed nature reserve rangers, locals, and local development initiative leaders, and looked at many issues – poverty, education, infrastructure – but the most influential was the effect climate change is having in the country.
Rising sea levels are making the River Gambia (upon which the economy and people depend) become more saline, meaning the farmland on the river’s banks is becoming infertile. It’s a serious problem; agriculture is Gambia’s second-largest industry, and the whole country lies on the river’s floodplain. It’s exacerbated by attempts at irrigation, which often makes minerals including salt rise to the land surface, and can again render it unusable.
In addition, the encroaching Sahara is starting to affect Gambian farmland. Locals see a yearly decline, and it shocked us to see such concrete evidence of the impact climate change is having on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. CU educates Gambians about how to adapt to the changes climate change brings, for example, how to cultivate salt-resistant crops, or how to irrigate in a sustainable way that will not result in salinisation of the land.
Concern Universal taught us the importance of sustainable development; we learned the importance of educating people about how to improve their own lives, not just to do it for them – that way, they educate their countrymen and the impact of the charity work is much greater. We knew we couldn’t go home and ignore what we’d seen; we had to tell people about what we had discovered, and how we could do our bit to halt climate change.
Concern Universal and G-Nation Award (funding to visit The Gambia). Appleby funding to attend Roots & Shoots Awards in London.
Parents, staff, and pupils fundraising for Concern Universal.
Benefits of being an Eco-School
Our goal was to cancel out the CO2 produced by our school.
Therefore we planted 4660 trees to counterbalance the emissions created by students travelling to school. We’ve completed a survey of all the transportation methods in use, calculated the CO2 produced, and then worked out the number of trees necessary to cancel it out.
We’ve calculated that our paper recycling schemes have saved three trees’ worth of paper. A pilot group has been established consisting of students, teacher representatives, and parent-Governors. They coordinate the rest of the school and wider community.
We’re monitoring paper usage; last year, £5167 was saved on photocopying costs, and most homework is now online - since the online learning forum was established, in year seven alone, 7640 pieces of paper have been saved.
Recycling boxes are in every classroom, and 615 paper briquettes were distributed to the elderly, recycling 24,460 newspapers – that’s 1104kg of woodland. This reduces paper wastage and CO2 emissions; paper briquettes are cleaner-burning than fossil fuels. This also builds relationships with the elderly in the community.
We’ve put timers on lights and computers, and encouraged people to turn off appliances, decreasing our electricity bill by £1066.47 compared to April/November 2010.
Measuring the impact
The project has made the finals of Volvo Adventure (held in Sweden June 2012) and the finals of Roots & Shoots Award. Reports were sent to local radio, newspaper, and the Overseas Aid Committee. On line blogs.
Using the Pod’s resources
We’ve completed the following www.jointhepod.org activities: Better off by Bike, Bug Hotel, Flushed with Success, Goodbye Standby, Lose your bottle, Recharge your batteries, Switch on to Switching Off, and Will Wind Work.
Educational resources used
Climate Week Challenge, Volvo Adventure, Roots & Shoots Mission
Working alongside a charity such as Concern Universal made a huge impact on the students and was a real driving force for their project.
The school is going to get a biomass boiler.