Arden goes for their Eco-Schools Bronze award
02 August 2012
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Katie from the Eco-Schools team met up with Arden Academy's Eco-Coordinator and Eco-Committee to find out how they used the Pod's Switch-Off Fortnight energy awareness campaign to kick start their Eco-Schools work and achieve their Bronze award. Here's what she found out:
Arden Academy is situated in Knowle, Solihull and encompasses both a Secondary School and Sixth Form.
Arden welcomed a new principal in September 2011, Martin Murphy. With a background in geography and an interest in sustainability, Martin was very supportive when Liz Allton, Head of Creative Arts and Technology department, had the idea of joining the Eco-Schools programme. Once it had been decided it would be a good idea, they registered Arden with Eco-Schools and began the school’s sustainable journey.
Forming the Eco-Committee
Liz Allton took on the role of Eco-Coordinator and asked the student body for volunteers to form an Eco-Schools Eco-Committee. Posters were put up around the school asking for any interested people to attend a meeting about joining the school’s new Eco-Committee and the Heads of Year were asked to announce in their assemblies too.
Once the students had attended the initial meeting they were invited by Liz Allton, as Eco-Coordinator, to officially form the Eco-Committee. Regular meetings with the students then began to be held during lunchtimes.
The Eco-Committee consists of a group of Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 5 pupils, specifically two Year 7s, two Year 8s, two Year 9s, and two Year 12s. Year 10 and 11 students did not volunteer as they wanted to remain focused on their GCSEs.
The students in the committee then identified potential staff members that they thought would bring a good range of skills to the full Eco-Committee. The students took charge and approached the staff to ask them to be involved and soon a member of the school’s Accounts and Facilities staff was on board. In addition to this Liz Allton approached a governor who had been recommended and Martin (Principal) met a Tree Warden through community meetings and asked her to become involved. They were both keen and joined the Eco-Committee.
Conducting the Environmental Review
It was decided in the first Eco-Committee meeting that the nine Eco-Schools topics would be divided amongst the committee members, with each year group pair assigned a topic to investigate. The Environmental Review template on the Eco-Schools Programme Materials page was downloaded and used to guide the students investigation of the school’s performance in each topic area.
The Eco-Committee members fed back their findings to each other in the form of PowerPoint presentations. In the process of investigating energy and water the Eco-Committee identified that they needed to enlist the help of the school’s Site Manager, realising that at present these are two areas in which students have no involvement or awareness of. This is because the management of energy and water in the school is the sole responsibility of staff members. The Eco-Committee also discovered vast differences between the energy use of the school’s new and old buildings.
The Environmental Review highlighted that there were lots of opportunities and places in the school in which to improve the school’s environmental performance. The Eco-Committee decided that energy, waste, school grounds and biodiversity topics needed to be prioritised and that these would be taken forward into their Action Plan.
One of the first actions the Eco-Committee took was to sign up to the Pod’s popular energy awareness campaign, Switch-Off Fortnight, in November 2011. They had heard about the campaign through an Eco-Schools e-newsletter.
The Eco-Committee set about promoting Switch-Off Fortnight and encouraging staff and students to reduce the amount of energy wasted at school and in the home by switching off lights and appliances when not in use.
As part of Switch-Off Fortnight, the Eco-Committee expanded their activities to include a “red light campaign” – making their fellow students aware that TV monitors and game consoles at home need to be fully turned off – and not just left on standby.
The Eco-Committee took the message of Switch-Off Fortnight to all year groups, by speaking in their year group assemblies and encouraging people to take part. In addition to this Liz Allton sent the Pod’s Switch-Off Fortnight assembly PowerPoint to all tutors in the school to show classes during form time. The Eco-Committee also downloaded and installed the Pod’s special Switch-Off Fortnight Desktop Backgrounds on all of the schools computers. The Eco-Committee reported that these not only served as another reminder of the campaign but were effective prompts to switch off monitors when not in use.
Impact of Switch-Off Fortnight:
The Eco-Coordinator admitted that her behaviour certainly changed as a result of the Switch-Off Fortnight campaign and has since been turning computers off at the wall whereas before she didn’t.
The Eco-Committee commented that many of their classmates were initially reluctant to join in with the campaign, but eventually got fed up of being reminded about it and their need to act and so were seen to change their behaviour!
What was clear when speaking to the Eco-Committee was that they themselves, as well as other students, were becoming more aware of the energy behaviours of their fellow students, teachers and family members. Some students even began ‘telling off’ members of the Eco-Committee for getting a lift into school during Switch-Off Fortnight!
The campaign certainly sparked discussions about the differences in people’s energy practices and students were making connections around why people behave in certain ways and what habits or contextual elements seem to help or hinder good and bad energy behaviour.
The Eco-Committee said that Switch-Off Fortnight was a good campaign to kick off their Eco-Schools work and introduce the programme to the school; and having a call to action was a good way to get everyone on board, involved and acting together. Arden commented that they felt that two weeks was a good length for the campaign as it left a fair amount of time for everyone to find out what was going on rather than just a day when it could easily be missed.
Arden thought that the Switch-Off Fortnight campaign was a good project to start with as energy is a fairly easy topic to understand as well as easy to tell people how their behaviour could be changed simply and immediately with little effort. Furthermore, the Eco-Committee felt that many people relate ‘eco’ to energy so the link between the campaign and Eco-Schools was clear.
The Eco-Committee had only just formed when the Switch-Off Fortnight campaign kicked off, so unfortunately there were elements of the campaign they did not have time to put in place and action. Arden are planning to have a much stronger campaign for Switch-Off Fortnight 2012 and will be measuring the impact of their efforts using the Pod’s Pod-o-Metres to track and measure any energy savings made. In the next campaign they are also planning to link the campaign into their lessons, particularly within Design and Technology and Science and Geography.
Following the Pod’s Switch-Off Fortnight campaign Arden successfully applied for and achieved their Eco-Schools Bronze award.
Linking sustainability to the curriculum
The Eco-Committee members said that they often identified connections and crossovers between their class topics and how different sustainability issues link in to them, e.g. how food waste could be used to create biofuel.
A Year 7 member of the Eco-Committee said that he was making similar connections between sustainable topics and things he had read or heard about when at home. For example, he had recently watched a science documentary at home and mentioned to his parents about how certain environmental issues linked to the programmes subject.
The school has linked Eco-Schools work to existing school projects, e.g. Apprenticeship Day. Integrating the schools different projects allows for a efficient use of time and resources, as well as enabling cross-curricular links to be made. They Eco-Committee have been brainstorming lots more ways in which they can link current school activities and curriculum topics to their Eco-Schools targets and Action Plan.
One class has been looking at food miles as part of Geography. The students have been keeping a food diary and looking at what was eaten and where in the world that food would have come from. This has linked with similar sustainability work completed in Food Technology.
Benefits of being an Eco-School
Liz Allton, the Eco-Coordinator, has already seen a wide range of benefits from the Eco-Schools programme impacting on the schools students. The responsibilities of the Eco-Committee means that it’s members are getting the opportunity to create and deliver presentations, exercise their investigative and problem solving skills, come up with realistic but creative solutions for the school’s environmental problems, as well as evaluate and assess their actions.
Following the achievement of their Bronze award, Arden are progressing towards their Eco-Schools Silver award by expanding upon the eco work they are already doing. Following the Environmental Review conducted at the start of the academic year, where waste was identified as one of the school’s priorities, actions for tackling it have been added to the Action Plan. The Eco-Committees two Year 7 reps have taken on the responsibility for looking at waste and have been nominated Waste Officers.
In March 2012 Arden took part in the Pod’s brand new waste campaign, Waste Week. The campaign was communicated around school via posters and TV screens, promoting Waste Week and giving hints and tips about what people could do to reduce waste. As they had done in Switch-Off Fortnight, the Eco-Committee presented in assemblies and used the desktop backgrounds to promote Waste Week messages to students and staff. In Food Technology (D&T) KS3 students were given homework based on reducing food waste and resources. Resources from the Love Food Hate Waste campaign were used as part of this.
Tackling school grounds and biodiversity
A long term Tree Planting programme in the school grounds has been added to the school’s Action Plan, with the eventual hope being to expand the programme out of the school and into community spaces too. The Headteacher and Eco-Committee have already made contact with a local Tree Warden, who attends Eco-Committee meetings and has begun to work with them on the logistics of the Tree Planting project.