An enquiry approach
Climate change is a big issue for us all, influencing every aspect of our lives. Its complexity demands creativity and debate in order for us as individuals and professionals to begin to make sense of the issues. There are no easy answers and no absolute certainties; the issues will change and develop over time. The decisions young people will be faced with in their adult lives will be very different from those we are faced with now.
As teachers, this may be an uncomfortable place to be – it is difficult to be climate change experts! So the core challenge for teachers as we see it, is to create space for thinking and discussion in which both teachers and learners have the opportunity to investigate ideas, challenge their own thinking and draw their own conclusions.
The groups who worked towards the publication ‘Climate Change~ local and global’, focussed on an enquiry approach with their groups of learners at Key Stages 2 and 3. This approach engaged young people positively with the complexities of climate change, encouraging them to draw their own conclusions.
It was based on four key questions:
Q1 What is climate change?
Q2 Why does it matter?
Q3 What can we do about it?
Q4 What have we learned and how?
This section follows the cycle of four questions proposed in Section 2 and offers a selection of activities for supporting the enquiry process.
The activities were developed in response to specific school contexts, but hopefully you will find them useful as a stimulus for your own thinking, practice and debates. We also outline some supporting material and articles that we have found helpful.
Ideas in this section allow children to share their existing ideas and understandings. Activities include opportunities to explore vocabulary, fact and opinion in news articles and graphical information.
This section offers children time and space to think through the implications of climate change for their lives. It is an opportunity to explore negative and positive consequences at a range of scales, exploring personal local and global implications.
Activities offer opportunities for children to consider what climate change means for themselves and their communities and to explore negative and positive implications of change.
This section engages learners in making decisions about appropriate actions for themselves, rather than simply conforming to prescribed behaviours. In supporting both action and ideas, teacher groups have stressed the importance of children having opportunities for critical engagement with the issues.
Activities in this section include opportunities for learners to consider what action is both appropriate and possible as a response to climate change.
Creating space for young people to reflect upon their learning is a crucial element in the enquiry process – it involves learning about learning. Reviewing understandings will help to develop their resilience to future developments. The activities suggested here include practical, interactive strategies to enable children to think about their own learning, including through sharing that learning with a wider audience.
4. Educational policy context
We are faced with many policy changes and new initiatives which have significant implications for us as teachers. We feel that, despite the pressure for change and innovation, we can be optimistic about the opportunities these changes offer for us to develop a more creative, responsive, learner-centred experience in our schools. This section highlights some significant developments.
5. Resources and links
As the profile and urgency of climate change has increased, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of teaching and learning materials available relating to climate change. We need to critically analyse these resources to ensure that they are helping us to make the most of every learning opportunity. Some resources are blatantly manipulative, aimed at generating specific behaviours rather than encouraging us to consider the nature of our own responses.
There are, however, many really useful resources and websites, some of which we have included as links throughout this article.
Here we highlight more resources that we have found useful.
Many teachers and groups working with Tide~ in the West Midlands have been involved in responding creatively to climate change in their teaching. We would like to thank them for all of their enthusiasm and hard work.
The journey towards this article began with a response to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has continued ever since, evolving as the issues have changed.
It draws particularly from ‘Climate Change ~ local and global, an enquiry approach’. For full acknowledgements see below.
This article also draws upon ideas from:
Tide~ study visits to The Gambia focussing on climate change and sustainability;
Work with teacher groups in collaboration with WMNet, especially in the development of ‘Thinking Through Climate Change’ and ‘Climate X-change’;
Lets Talk Climate Change project;
Seminars leading to the paper ‘Climate change ~ the educational implications’ which is also a response to the challenge raised by Bill Scott and Paul Vare in relation to ESD1 and ESD2;
Ideas from the Learning Journeys projects in partnership with Language Alive and Birmingham City Council Outdoor Learning Service at The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Ideas have also been drawn from a range of other workshops, partnerships and conferences including the Al Gore/University of Cambridge Climate Change Project.
The debates around climate change, and our role as educators continue. We welcome your responses and creative ideas.
Climate Change ~ Local and Global, and enquiry approach [published 2005]
Here we acknowledge the people and organisations involved in the project during its development.
These materials were written by:
Ben Ballin, Tide~ Centre [Project worker]
Jon Cree, Bishop’s Wood Centre, Worcestershire [co-editor]
Steve Brennan-White, Bredenbury Primary School, Herefordshire
Ruth Henshaw, Wakeman School, Shrewsbury
Stephen Pickering, University College Worcester/ Worcestershire County Council*
Jeanette Pinches, Stirchley Primary, Telford
Sue Shanks, Natural Curriculum Project, Wolverhampton*
Andrew Simons, Centre of the Earth, Birmingham*
Malcolm Smith, Barston Education Centre, Solihull*
Sonia Wright, Bell Heath Study Centre, Birmingham*
With contributions from:
Lisa Ambler, GLOBE Programme, Warwickshire
Jane Bufton, Holbrook Primary, Coventry
Wendy Clarke, Stanley Road Primary, Worcester
Lesley Geoghegan, Somerville JI School, Birmingham
Lawrence Gittins, Newcastle CE Primary School, Shropshire
Phil Leivers, Coventry LEA* [now at Solihull LEA]
Steve Lockwood, Dudley LEA*
Jodie Mills, Highfields School, Wolverhampton
Sarah Oakley, Coventry Agenda 21*
Lisa Parkes, St Mary’s CE Primary, Kingswinford [now at Alder Coppice Primary, Dudley]
Steve Rogers, Shropshire LEA*
Nicki Spilman, The Kingswinford School, Dudley
* Project group facilitators
With special thanks to:
Mark Sharrott, Warwickshire LEA; Janet Jubb, Solihull LEA; Nicola O’Regan, Solihull Green Scheme; John Rhymer, Worcestershire LEA – for supporting workshops and events.
Fran Martin, Mark Lynas, Stephan Harrison, Chris Baines, Julia Brown and George Marshall – for specialist advice and support.
Lynne Arnold and teachers from the Herefordshire Eco-Schools Group for advice and ideas, February 2005.
Five local working groups were involved in the main creative classroom work leading up to the original publication:
Facilitators: Malcolm Smith, Barston Education Centre; Sonia Wright, Bell Heath Study Centre; Andrew Simons, Centre of the Earth.
Working group: Gillian Beck, Boldmere Junior; Anna Jaremko, Boldmere Junior/New Hall JI;
Lesley Geoghegan, Somerville JI.
Also involved: Sue Penhallow, Albert Bradbeer Junior; Paul Archer, BASS; Terry Pugh, Bockleton Study Centre; Kirk Wellington and Deborah Latham, Foundry JI School; Ian Yates, James Watt Junior.
Coventry and Warwickshire
Facilitators: Sarah Oakley, Agenda 21; Phil Leivers, Coventry LA.
Working group: Simon Bonney, Alice Stevens Special School; Majella Forrester, Foxford School; Lisa Ambler, GLOBE; Jane Bufton, Holbrook Primary; Sarah Jackson, Performing Arts Service; Lynn Melling, WEEAC.
Also involved: Mr N Owen, Allesley Primary; Elaine Gough, Bishop Ullathorne School; K Bonehill, Clifford Bridge Primary; Bill Johnson, Coventry City Council; Jane Barker, Coventry LA; Veronica Parrell, Holbrook Primary; Elizabeth Chester, Manor Park Primary; Karen Hawcutt, Radford Primary; Jackie Dines, Sidney Stranger CTC; Deborah Knott, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust; Rose Smith, Warwickshire Education Ranger; Rohini Corfield, Warwickshire LA.
Dudley and Wolverhampton
Facilitators: Steve Lockwood, Dudley LEA; Sue Shanks, Natural Curriculum Project, Wolverhampton.
Working group: Kerry Harris and Adrian Hyde, Blanford Mere Primary; Jodie Mills, Highfields School, Wolverhampton; Lisa Parkes, St Mary’s Primary, Dudley [now at Alder Coppice Primary, Dudley]; Nicki Spilman, Kingswinford School, Dudley; Denise Ward, Kingswinford School.
Also involved: Greg Jones, Black Country School Improvement Partnership; Alyson Whittaker, Bramford Primary.
Shropshire and Telford
Facilitator: Steve Rogers, Shropshire LA.
Working group: Alyson Owens, Baschurch CE Primary; Claire Paybody, The Burton Borough School; Mary Lucas, Clive Primary; Marie Dewsbury, The Lord Silkin School; Lawrence Gittins, Newcastle CE Primary; Sharon Evans, St George’s Special School; Dawn Herriot, Sherrifhales Primary; Mary Potter, Southall Special School; Jeanette Pinches, Stirchley Primary; Ruth Cox, The Sundorne School; Ann-Marie Furbur, Trefonen Primary; Gill Clarke, Trinity CE School; Ruth Henshaw, Wakeman School; Michelle Rowley, Wombridge Primary; Jerry Hughes, Worthen CE Primary.
Also involved: Paul Tutchener, Baschurch CE Primary; Kevin Lawrence, Bridges Centre; Andrew Tetsall, Corbet Secondary; Janet Keeble, Shropshire Wildlife Trust; Becky Lloyd, Telford & The Wrekin Council.
Worcestershire and Herefordshire
Facilitator: Stephen Pickering, Worcestershire County Council.
Working Group: Steve Brennan-White, Bredenbury Primary, Herefordshire; Wendy Clark, Stanley Road Primary, Worcester; Jon Cree, Bishop’s Wood Centre; Fran Martin, University College Worcester.
Also involved: John Rhymer, Bishop’s Wood Centre; Felicity Weeks, Broadlands Primary School, Hereford; Helen Turner and Jenny Sadler, Ridgeway Middle, Worcestershire; Jenny Oakley, St Barnabas Primary, Worcester; Caroline Mathews, Welland Primary, Worcestershire; Michelle Bayliss, Windmill First School, Worcestershire.
One-off workshops and creative sessions
We would like to thank the teachers who played a role at and attended these sessions, whose thinking has contributed to the original project.
Bishop’s Wood Centre, Worcestershire; Centre of the Earth, Birmingham; Harborne Hall, Birmingham; Lugwardine Court, Herefordshire; Chapel Fields Centre, Solihull; Manor Hall, Warwickshire.
A climate for change? Conference, Bishop’s Wood Centre, March 2003.
This event helped initiate the project, and was attended by 61 delegates. We would like to acknowledge the following people who contributed to its planning and running.
John Rhymer, Bishop's Wood Centre; Pauline Lozoya, COIN; Zoe Kulczycki, CREATE; Ros Bray and Emily Ford, Eco-Schools; Jenny Stamps, Parkside Middle, Worcestershire; Sue Fitzjohn, St John’s CE First School, Kidderminster; Emma Brice, St Peter’s CE Primary, Bromyard; Derek Allder, Severn Trent Water; Fiona Gough, Shropshire Energy Advice Centre; Marina Churm, West Midlands ESD Forum; Liz Alston, Worcestershire County Council.
Gambia Study Visit Courses 2002-2008
These courses, in partnership with the National Environment Agency in The Gambia, helped initiate and catalyse the thinking of the project. In particular, a discussion paper prepared by the 2002 group helped enable early work. We would like to acknowledge all those who have been part of this work, and particularly those who have taken a leading role:
Andrew Simons, Sue Penhallow, Fran Martin and Sally Wood [UK];
Ndey Bakurin and Ajie Binta Kinteh [The Gambia].
A further climate change project was developed with Worcestershire Schools and facilitated by Jon Cree. Some of this work was incorporated into the WMNet's online resources on Floods and Climate Change.
The Sustainable Development and Climate Change Liaison Group
Paul Archer, Birmingham LA;
Ben Ballin, Tide~ global learning;
Colette Bond, Garden Organic;
Steve Brennan-White, Bredenbury Primary, Herefordshire;
Mary Burton, Regional Co-ordinator for Sustainable Schools, GOWM;
Meghna Das, Coventry LA;
Antonia Fitch, Herefordshire LA;
Sue Fitzjohn, Worcestershire Diocese;
Jo Flynn, Science Learning Centre WM;
James Friel, Black Environment Network;
Lucy Gallagher, Being Greener and Cleaner, Keele University;
Derrick Golland, Staffordshire QLS;
Barbara Golding, Warwickshire LA;
Bill Graham, Farming and Countryside Education;
Pete Hedges, Aston University;
Jerry Hughes, Worthen Primary, Shropshire;
Ray Hughes, Regional School Travel Plan Officer;
Pete Humphreys, Personalised Education Now;
Janet Jubb, Solihull LEA;
Paul Kemp, Groundwork Birmingham and Solihull;
Becky Link, Severn Trent Water;
Steve Lockwood, Dudley LA;
Terry Martin, Birmingham LA;
Fran Martin, University College Worcester;
Sally Noble, Telford and Wrekin LA;
Sarah Oakley, Coventry Agenda 21;
Stephen Pickering, University College of Worcester;
John Rhymer, Worcestershire LA;
Steve Rogers, Shropshire LA;
Jenny Sansom, Warwick Agenda 21;
Sue Shanks, Natural Curriculum Project, Wolverhampton;
Andrew Simons, Centre of the Earth, Birmingham;
Judt Simpson, Walsall LA;
Scott Sinclair, Tide~ global learning;
Gerry White, Walsall LA.
The West Midlands Coalition is supported by West Midlands LEAs, the Department for International Development and many other partners. We would like to acknowledge Brandon Marsh Nature Centre, Centre of the Earth, the Bishop’s Wood Centre and Severn Trent Water for the support they have given this project.