As part of my first six serial days at my placement at Newark Primary, by observing, speaking to class teachers, interacting with learners, reading school policies, etc, I gathered information about my school’s effort towards sustainable development.
Map of School Grounds
Evidence of existing engagement
As most of my time was spent in class during lessons, I never had the opportunity to witness visually Newark’s engagement with sustainable education. However through enquiring with other members of staff I came to understand how Newark has implementing their commitment to sustainability through their:
- Eco Committee
- Recycling bins
- Weekly designated Eco Monitors
- The school Eco policies
The Eco Committee is made up of one chosen pupil from every primary class. They come together for meetings twice per term to discuss what strategies they plan to take to create a more eco-friendly school environment. The main themes they focus on are: litter on school grounds and inside the school and collecting the recycling bins from each classroom.Members of the Eco Committee help make decisions regarding all matters relating to environmental issues within the school. Each class has a responsibility for promoting a particular aspect . The school attained ‘silver’ status in December 2010 and are now working towards their ‘Green Flag’ award. The Eco Noticeboard is displayed outside the canteen and is regularly updated by committee members.
According the Newark Primary School policy:
“The Eco Action Group aim to keep our school and local area clean and tidy. We try to encourage the pupils, parents/carers and local community to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle what they can, to help keep the planet clean. Within our school we are managing to recycle very successfully, ensuring that all children and staff use the appropriate bins for the correct type of material. Each year the school will focus on a different aspect towards achieving the ECO Schools Green Flag award. This year we are focussing on Litter, Energy and Health and Wellbeing”
It is the responsibility of the class eco monitors that when the class are leaving the classroom unoccupied to go to assembly; to go to the computer suite; to go home; is to switch off the lights and the interactive whiteboard.
It is clear that the school have made considerable to efforts to support sustainable development. However, overall I found that there was not much enthusiasm amongst staff when discussing the matter. A fair amount of teachers were not sure of what the eco committee entailed as they are not heavily involved in the meetings. Therefore, this shows that the overall morale amongst teacher to create a sustainable future for the school is quite low.
The school have no gardens for bird boxes or plants grown for outdoor learning.
The school play space mainly consists on concrete grounds, however there the grounds are painted with bright colours to create games, such as snake and ladders and counters, to allow children more stimuli for play. There is a roundabout in the centre of the playground for children to play on. In addition, there is regularly a box of play equipment, such as skipping ropes, footballs, hoola hoops, etc, giving the children more fun activities.
However, for improving the play space toward opportunities for learning for sustainability through play, I would suggest creating an area for a garden, where possible, through the grounds. These could include upkeep of a plants, flowers or vegetable patch, or through the installation of designated outdoor learning features, natural obstacle course, which could be used to facilitate outdoor learning as well as providing interesting and stimulating play spaces for children.
Discussion with children
I spoke with various children in my primary 4 class about the relevant aspects of sustainable education. One included the eco committee member of the class. I asked her a series of question about why she thought the school needed an eco committee and how she thinks it helps sustaining the planet. She was very enthusiastic to tell me everything she had learnt from the committee meetings and how she think that committee really benefits the pupils as there is very little litter due to their efforts. She said she has taken it upon herself to inform other pupils about the goals and aims for the committee and encouraged them to pick up any litter they see. This pupil’s attitude towards contributing to the school’s sustainable development was very positive and touching. Having more pupils like this is the best way for the school change and contribute to resolving environmental issues
However when I asked her what her thoughts were about how the committee “saves” the planet Earth, she did not understand how her efforts affected the world or how the world is negatively impacted from environmental issues. This can be put down to her age and her lack of ability to fully comprehend complex issues, however I feel this could be improved by the meetings being more informative on the reasons behind their actions and how it helps the planet.