I’m in the middle of a Year 9 Maths lesson on a freezing Wednesday afternoon in January. ‘Sir, can we open the windows? It’s baking in here.’ My frustration rises as I realise that not agreeing to the request would lead to more disruption as the girl in question struggles to take no for an answer. To be fair to her it is uncomfortably warm inside, but there are no heating controls in the classroom, so the only way to cool it is to allow in some icy air from outside and allow the heat from the radiators to disappear out of the window. It feels like such a waste of both energy and money.
This kind of thing happened all the time. In one block of classrooms double glazing had been fitted, but heating controls hadn’t been changed meaning that in the winter students either sweated their way through the lessons in sauna-like conditions, or windows were opened, defeating the purpose of the highly efficient insulation. Lights were left on throughout the buildings, recycling boxes were filled up but rarely emptied, and it seemed at times that litter bins were there for decorative purposes rather than practical use.
It was clear that there was little consideration of environmental issues outside the odd geography and science lesson, and it was impossible to see how we could teach students to become environmentally responsible citizens when their school set such a bad example. At this point I decided that something needed to be done. I drew up an action plan, wrote a job description for the as yet un-created role of Sustainability Coordinator and to my surprise and delight was wholeheartedly supported by the Headteacher.
Alongside Maths teaching duties, I spent the following 3 years helping a group of students to tackle the problems that had frustrated many members of staff. Year 12 students ran a variety of campaigns ensuring that all the school students were aware of environmental issues and the role that they could play in addressing climate change. Click here to see how it turned out and find out how we got there in the next blog.
Have you encountered similar problems and are looking for a way to tackle them?