The evidence for climate change is sobering, and reading the pre-course materials for the Earthwatch Institute’s Teach Earth programme made my heart sink. Not for long though – I arrived at Wytham Woods one Sunday in the middle of August, for a week’s residential where I quickly got to know a group of the most amazing course leaders and other environmental educators, with a real passion for nurturing nature.
The Earthwatch Teach Earth programme aims to develop environmental leaders of the future by supporting teachers to inspire young people to connect with and care for our natural world.
We started the course by learning about the 9 planetary boundaries, which include species extinction, climate change and ocean acidification – if we go beyond certain levels in too many of these then the Earth may not be able to recover. This may seem a gloomy message, but this knowledge gives us the chance to turn things around.
Throughout the week we were very busy – we spent hours in the wonderful Wytham Woods helping to collect data which can be used to assess how our woodlands are affected by climate change, and to inform policy; we shared resources and discussed how we plan to incorporate climate change into our teaching; we tested the Freshwater Watch and tea-bag decomposition citizen science projects; we learned about dead man’s fingers (fungi); we visited a unique Japanese kiln; we gathered wood, learned how to light fires, listened to storytelling and toasted marshmallows around the bonfire; we reflected on how valuable the environment is to us personally. The days flew by, ideas were shared and new friendships were established, all of us aware that “We live in a moment of great opportunities and great risk.”
After immersing myself in the Teach Earth programme for a week I left feeling recharged, inspired, cheered and with my optimism soaring. I’m looking forward to next spring when we meet again to share news of our challenges and successes. I’m extremely grateful to Roots & Shots and the Garfield Weston Foundation to have been given the opportunity to participate in Teach Earth.
Term has started, we’re back at school now, and among other things, I have already been able to address a “rallying cry” speech to all staff; delivered a whole school assembly on climate change (complete with film clip of the wonderful, giant polar bear Aurora); submitted climate change linked items to our school newsletter each week; we’ve just been awarded Eco-schools silver status (aiming for Green in the next month or 2) and Earthwatch leaders have agreed to come to the Area 5 science meeting we are hosting next month… It’s all go, and it’s all good!