Suitable for Year 5 to Year 8.
This is a fun and hands-on "eco" workshop for schools - with a difference. Children will discover for themselves how scientists study climate change. They will work together to collect and analyse their own climate data, learn how fossil fuel emissions are heating our planet, and see how our food needs are impacting wild species. We look at ways that our technologies and our behaviours can be used to make positive changes towards sustainable living, and become informed and empowered participants in the climate debate.
Global climate change is very much in the media spotlight at the moment, and so it should be. Today’s schoolchildren (and their children) will be the ones dealing with the effects of how our current leaders react to this threat. People, including children, are also becoming increasingly concerned about pollution, especially by plastics.
This workshop will leave pupils with the scientific skills and knowledge necessary for them to decide how, or if, they wish to become involved in the discussion about climate change, or to change their own family's or school's sustainability. Perhaps it will also inspire some of them to become scientists themselves.
Introduction: How "eco-friendly" are we? What are we already doing to look after nature and our earth? (reducing plastics, recycling, bug hotels etc.?) Is this enough? Who is aware of the school climate strikes etc?
Brief fun demo to recap knowledge of habitats and food chains (including pollinators) on land and sea.
Demo: What is the atmosphere and why is it important? (try on the greenhouse blanket yourself).
What is a carbon footprint?
Carousel of activities (optional extension activities in italics):
Study the climate/vegetation zones on football globes (relating them to any existing knowledge of deserts, rainforests, the arctic etc.). Identify the hottest zones of the world and calculate how many people live in them. Identify ice caps and rain-forests (and their shrinking surface area) from satellite images.
Become climate scientists by counting and measuring annual layers in (models of) ice cores, to look for patterns in temperature change (and other events, eg. volcanic eruptions). Take a trip into the past, and compare with graphs of this data, to spot past ice ages, and the recent rapid increase in temperature. Compare these to tree ring data or ocean floor sediment layers.
Study world map of “Where does our food come from?” (based on common supermarket foods) and measure air miles/carbon footprint of a fruit salad. Identify which of these foods we eat in our own diets. Can we make a tasty meal from foods sourced locally (picture cards)?
Study two large, 3D pie charts which show the changes in land use that humans have caused by intensive farming (since the stone age). Measure angles and calculate percentages. Consider how this affects wild species, eg. insects, trees.
Fantastic plastic. Plastic is a great invention. Single-use plastic is not. Can you sort out the re-usable from the single use plastic, and the recyclable from the non-recyclable? Choose some eco-friendly alternatives to common problem plastic items. Study some shocking facts about the plastic all around us, and where it all goes.
Offsetting your carbon footprint. Can you (literally) balance the two sides of the see-saw? Carbon sinks are piled on one side and carbon sources on the other. Learn as you play.
Compare fossil fuels with green energies. Examine (and smell) oil-containing rocks, and consider how we use fossil fuels. Make a wheel turn with water or air power. or witness energy being made by a solar-panel.
Test what could happen if sea-level rises due to ice melting: flood the islands with water to demonstrate the different scenarios in a tank. Is it fair that our own activities can affect people's lives in other parts of the world?
There is a worksheet to be filled in as children progress round the activities, to reinforce the key concepts. For each activity there is also a "top tip" for how individuals can help to mitigate that particular problem. If time allows, we can end with a brainstorming session to come up with ideas of things that the children themselves can do to become eco warriors or planet protectors.
We can extend the session by examining some news reports to discover how our politicians and large corporations are acting in the face of these problems. eg. the Rang-Tang in the rainforest, the new runway at Heathrow, support for fracking, recycling being sent to Indonesia etc.
We discuss our new knowledge and feelings in light of these activities. (Scientists have been warning politicians for 40 years that human activity has been causing global climate change yet very little has been done about it.) What have we learned about our politicians and big companies? What have we learned about climate change protesters? What have we learned about our own lifestyles from this??
The idea is not to make children feel scared or guilty but to empower them with knowledge and skills which they can then use to do whatever they feel they wish to do about this vitally important issue.