Sustainable Development Placement Task

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.

Play Space

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.

Learning Log – Energy Use

Week 1 

This week in sustainable development we were looking at energy and how to implement teaching it in ways children can relate to. Our main concern is recognising how much energy sources (fossil fuels) our planet uses and how we will eventually run out of these sources if we do not make changes and use alternatives. Initially we looked at what everyday forms of energy are used tremendously in the Western world, such as heating and electricity to power households and the use of transport fuels. Looking at basic examples like boiling a kettle or leaving a light on can show children how they heavily rely on fossil fuels and by recognising this they can contribute to helping save energy. We later investigated what alternatives can used to find new ways to generate electricity, power vehicles and make materials.

Our first workshop consisted of going round six stations where there was an experiment set up based on electricity or magnetism. These experiments would be very useful to introduce specific terms to children such as circuits, voltage, series, amps, etc. Each experiment built on my science process skills, including observation and communication. Observing is fundamental in order to see changes, make sense of what has happened and identify why it happened. Communication, especially in groups, is also very important as others can share their observations and ideas, therefore having another perspective can lead a more accurate judgement of what happened in the experiment. Doing these experiments myself particularly informed my planning and practice as a teacher. It gave me the opportunity to judge which experiments would be the most engaging and stimulating for a young class.

The second workshop proved to be very informative to me as a student. We looked at the use of wind turbines as an alternative use of energy. Firstly, we were set out to individually research sources on the argument of wind turbines, i.e. are they a good idea for governments to use a main alternative energy source? We later were set into groups to share our own findings and summarise them into a list/mind map of for and against points of using wind turbines. This use of collaborative learning greatly developed on my overall knowledge of the subject matter, this is an area I have always wanted to learn more about as student. As well as developing my research skills, my critical literacy skills were expanded too as I judged what sources were the most informative and also as I was able to pick out relevant information from the source and apply it to my research. The last stage of our workshop was to debate with another group, with one group being allocated in favour of wind turbines and one group allocated against them. Despite the opinions of the debate teams, each were able to present arguments for their side very well. Debating highly builds on skills for persuasive speech, presenting, listening, critical thinking, and academic confidence. All of which I can use throughout my time as a student. However this experience of learning also provided a meaningful in sight to me as a teacher. I took from this that using debating and other memorable teaching methods is great way for children to use their own ideas and opinions to learn an important subject.

Week 2

We had the chance to listen to a teacher from Onthank Primary in which she spoke of how she incorporates STEM learning in the classroom. She is involved in a project that encourages teachers to get children to think like engineers.

She spoke of how all children should be involved in interdisciplinary learning where they can get involved and become creative, because it should be recognised by teachers that learning through traditional maths and literacy is not for everyone. Key ways to teach children to be STEM minded involved giving them a real-life context to the learning and use specific language that stimulates them to think as a problem-solvers. Also we as teacher should be modelling practice by encouraging children to see that making mistakes is good and reframe failure as necessary part of learning; show them teachers can also make mistakes and do not always have the right answers. I identified that in order to implement effective STEM learning in the classroom the teacher has be skilled in areas of creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. The talk was very informative to me, as a teacher, particularly when she spoke of how a school does not need to be from a wealthy area or have highly intelligent pupils for them to gain achievement in STEM learning. Having spent time in schools in deprived areas, and I most likely will spend more time in my future career as a teacher, I plan to take this knowledge on and implement these useful strategies.

In our only workshop of the day, we had to create an anemometer out of materials and after to create a lesson plan from the task including CfE experience and outcomes, learning intentions and success criteria. Thinking as a teacher, I had to use my organisational skills to clearly structure my objectives and what steps I would plan to take during the lesson. Although we were given the task that would take place in our lesson plan, we came up with other technology/engineering based tasks (such as structuring a paper bridge) this developed my creativity skills as a teacher as thinking of fresh and engaging lessons is a main component of the job. The collaboration of group members developed my group working skills, teacher will commonly share ideas and lesson plans in their career.

Learning log – Disasters

Week 1

My knowledge of natural disasters was very limited prior this week’s learning in Sustainable Development. Our lecture reinforced what I already knew about disasters, i.e. types of disasters, what they look like through video footage, the primary effects they can have such as high rate of mortality and mass destruction of land and infrastructure. Middleton (2013, page 367) suggests “natural hazards should be defined and studied both in terms of physical processes involved and the human factors affecting the vulnerability of certain groups of people to disasters”. Thus looking at socioeconomic and political aspects of certain areas, such as government policy and access ,  is essential to understand why an area does not tackle a natural disaster well. This is something I had not recognised previously as a student.

I had the opportunity to further understand how disasters are inherently political by comparing case studies of Japan and Haiti. Both country’s government response to their natural disaster were very different from one another, this is for a number of reasons. With Japan being exceptionally more wealthy than Haiti, the funding  and policy towards preparedness for disaster events was well prioritised. Wealthier countries will tend to have more allies, meaning in the case of a disaster they can rely on international help such as extra resources. Japan being heavily organised for such an event made recovery and mitigation a more fast effective process. Contrary to this, Haiti having levels of corruption in government the response decisions were not all made based on human principles. Their unorganised planning for example slow distribution of supplies and poor search for survivors caused detrimental effects to the country, this also resulted in protests and outbreaks of violent behaviour from the public. Effectively evaluating and analysing these two case study texts allowed me develop my higher-order thinking skills as a student.

The American government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina is a powerful example of how being socioeconomically disadvantaged stimulates a weak recover from natural disasters.  A lack of social capital can hinder the ability to generate both the conditions necessary for mutual support and care and the mechanisms required for communities to exert effective pressure to influence public policy (Nix-Stevenson, 2013). New Orleans is mainly populated by working class African-American people, therefore the people did not have the power to create change and get the help they desperately needed from the government. I found this to be the most interesting part of my learning as even in one of world’s most wealthy and powerful countries, a lack of social justice and political action created ruinous effects on one it own states.

We later discussed the questions of how and why should we teach natural disasters to primary children. Personally I feel growing up disasters were not spoken of much by my teachers, this is most likely due to teachers being uncomfortable talking about the subject, therefore I had the misconception that I could not be affected by one. If I take the attitude as a teacher myself I feel my pupils would have the same misconception. The Grenfell Tower disaster is an example of how important teaching disasters is and shows children that they could potentially be hit with a disaster in the UK. Looking at disasters in this way enhanced my knowledge by recognising that teachers should open about these subjects to children in order to prepare them for real-life situations.

I was able to expand my skills by taking part in a number of disaster-related science experiments. One example activity was using vinegar, fairy liquid, food colouring and bicarbonate soda to represent a volcanic eruption. I could use this activity in a lesson to also allow the pupils’ science investigation skills to develop as well as my own, such as: hypothesising, evaluating and observing.

Week 2  

In the second week of our learning we were given the opportunity to do some micro-teaching. We were required to prepare and give a group presentation to the class on a chosen type of natural disaster. After being given the topic of volcanoes, my group and I came together to  create the structure of our presentation and fairly allocate each person to  a specific research area they would later present.  Leading up to the day of the presentation, we all remained in contact with each other so everyone knew what each individual had worked on and what they had prepared to talk about. This was mainly to see how we could interlink each of our parts so that the presentation was cohesive and would flow better. The role of effective communication played a crucial part in the success of our presentation, a skill which is used extensively in a student’s university career. With having the opportunity to develop this skill I feel much more confident in working as a team and relying on others to produce the same standard of work as I would myself.  My research skills as a student increasingly developed as I investigated topic I had little knowledge about. Furthermore I benefitted from listening to my classmates present on their topics such as floods, typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc, as it helped increase my overall knowledge of natural disasters.

My role in the presentation was to produce and present a lesson plan in which I could introduce the topic of volcanoes to a primary class. Having the opportunity to do this independently (for the first time as a student teacher) really opened my eyes on how much work and planning goes into a lesson. I found this specifically when researching information on a topic that could potentially disturb and frighten pupils such as high death rates of volcanic explosions; I had to find websites, image ands videos that were child-friendly. This developed my evaluation skills as a teacher,  looking for appropriate resources and information is highly important for not only informing the pupils appropriately, but also to protect them.

The aspect of presenting in front of an audience enhanced a variety of my skills. In relation to my skills as a student, group presentations are a brilliant way to build a person’s confidence and speaking skills in front of colleagues. This will not only prepare me for future projects within university but also for future meetings and seminars with other professionals once I am qualified. Being able to communicate efficiently to an audience is one of main success criteria of teachers. By presenting my lesson plan and explaining the instructions I would give to a group of children, further built on my presently skills as a teacher. In addition, watching others present allowed me to develop my observational skills as I saw how each person engaged with the audience, e.g. through their body language, and what technique I thought worked best. I intend to take that knowledge on as a teacher in order to be the best communicator I can be to my pupils.

Learning Log/Study Task – Climate Change

Climate change is a issue that more and more people are starting to recognise as real and a current process. There is debate over whether climate change is a natural occurring process of our planet or it is man-made, i.e. because of industrial revolution causing decades of greenhouse gases emissions.

For our study task we were given various readings, quizzes and videos to watch to make us further aware of the global issue of climate change.

It was very interesting for me to watch video “Antartica on Edge”, a documentary of how 55 scientists took part in 22 experiments within the Antartica to understand how the region is changing. I always had heard ‘ice capsules melting” (through the news, facebook, school, etc) was a major critical issue for the world’s wellbeing; but I had never understood why ice melting in one of the remote and desolate locations on Earth would affect the rest of us. This investigation video showed me that warmer currents are now flowing further south towards the ice terrain, causing glacial melt which results in rising sea levels and drastically changing habitats. Many countries such as the republic of the Maldives are vulnerable to high sea-rise levels affecting their safety.

I was given the opportunity to measure my carbon footprint, in which really shocked me. My carbon footprint was around 284%, a dangerously high percentage as it is considered good to be under 100% . I had no idea that simple things such as having meat in all of my meals a day would contribute to my carbon footprint, the livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global emissions therefore I have realised it is important for me to reduce my meat consumption. The main cause of my large sized carbon footprint is my car travel. I commute from Gourock to Ayr 3 days a week, which is driving around 90 miles a day. Ways in which I could reduce this is by car sharing at half-way point with other students so instead of 2 or 3 cars causing pollution it will just be one. I could also use the train or bus more often when travelling around my local town.

After reading and familiarising myself with the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, I am more aware of the targets in which Scotland plan to hit in order to help the environment. The act has the idea of 2050 – to reduce Scottish emissions by 80% below the baseline by 2050. Currently, the Scottish government are working on their interim target of 42% emission reduction below the baseline by 2020. This key example of how they are actively trying to reach this goal is they changed the law of carrier bag charges. As a part-time customer team member at the Co-op, I saw first hand the response to this change and the frustrations it caused the public. However after reading I understand this implementation of the bag charges is to try and reduce emissions. It is not just the carrier bag changes that have been implemented, there are many different policies and legislation that the government has put into place that affects parts of our country which we do not see in day to day life.

Useful links:


Learning Log – Environment

The last two weeks of learning within the module Sustainable Development have really changed my attitude towards the topic of environment.

My prior understanding of the term ‘environment’ was very limited, with only really knowing that it is associated with our surroundings and having often only heard it being used in a negative context. However, after participating in various activities and taking on further reading into the matter, I have learned that it is essential for me (as a future educator) to be well informed on this subject for it is highly relevant in today’s global issues. Also for the fact the government has recognised the crucial role of education and learning in bringing about attitudinal and societal change in relation to these areas.

The various activities during the previous two weeks learning about both natural environments and urban environments have helped me developed a range of skills; both as a student and as a teacher.

The most effective activity relating to natural environments was a group sensory walk around campus, where we engaged in seeing, smelling, feeling and hearing our surroundings. As a student this developed my team working skills as we openly shared what each person could sense. We related the task to primary teaching and how it could be used a beneficial learning activity to educate children on natural environments, as well taking into account how what aspects of the task could be changed to adapt to a child’s needs. For example making sure on the walk the children stay within the school’s boundaries. The most interesting part was seeing how an activity which can applied for one area of learning can also become cross-curricular. An example of this would be the children using their experiences on the sensory walk to create a piece of writing, thereby developing their literacy skills in a fun and practical way. After participating in this activity, my skills as a teacher have developed diversely. Sharing ideas, communicating effectively and organised lesson planning are all key components of being a good teacher and I had the opportunity to experience each one during the task.

The second task we were assigned was to interact and find information on our local urban environment. As a student this built on my research skills as I had to investigate specific areas of a subject and conduct this into a piece of writing, something I have and will find myself doing very frequently at university. On a personal note, it expanded my knowledge of the town I have spent my whole life in and taught me useful facts that I never knew before. As a teacher, my skills were developed by thinking and planning different ways I can incorporate my findings with teaching children about their urban environment in an interesting and practical way.

Looking at helpful resources and links to teaching activities has showed me that learning about the theme of environment is very important and useful to a child’s education.


Study Task – Urban Environment


In the west coast of Scotland lies Greenock, a historic industrial town by the Firth of Clyde, 25 miles west of Glasgow. Greenock holds prominent maritime history as one of the busiest shipping ports in Scotland.

Greenock has a population of around 45,000 which has declined over the past 50 years from around 80,000, Greenock was once a bustling industrial area. Even though I am originally from its neighbouring town Gourock, Greenock has always been the heart of my urban environment.

Whilst Greenock has ‘re-branded’ as Riverside Inverclyde. The purpose of this re-generation is to create new modern homes, and leisure facilities across Greenock whilst opening and developing green spaces for communities to use.The Greenock Cut is an aqueduct which is one of the top 50 walks in Scotland, offering panoramic views of the Clyde. The walk has a visitor centre which includes an interactive exhibition and coffee shop. Other viewpoints over the Clyde can be found at the town’s Esplanade, where visitors can overlook Gourock and the Tail of the Bank, and at Lyle Hill where a beacon sits which celebrates the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth and is still lit on special occasions. Every year, my secondary school Clydeview Academy would take part in a sponsored walk of Greenock Cut to raise funds for our school, such as the school football team, PE equipment, a defibrillator, etc.

Public transport in Greenock is well varied. With two ferries running several times a day, and three train stations which provide a frequent daily service to Glasgow Central. Local transport is solely based around a local bus service, whilst taxi services are more busy and easy to use during the weekend. Greenock is also located directly at the end of the M8 motorway and takes around 30-50 minutes to travel the Glasgow City Centre depending on traffic. An interesting fact of our Town is its the birthplace of Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer James Watt who improved on Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1781, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world. The people of Greenock are very proud of having such a historical figure from its town we have many buildings, streets, bars, etc named after Watt.


Greenock can also struggle a great deal in snowy weather due to around 60% of Greenock being built on hillsides.

There are several entertainment facilities located in Greenock, including a theater and several leisure centers. Located just two miles from Greenock in Gourock is one of two remaining outdoor swimming pools in Scotland. There are also several libraries and community centers located in different burghs of Greenock, there are also twelve primary schools located within Greenock.

Greenock’s employment is primarily made up of the public-sector field. Local supermarkets make up the clear majority of private-sector workers. Generally, most of the other employment within Greenock is made up of small local businesses.

Greenock has two areas which are protected from peri-urbanisation. These two areas located within the Clyde Estuary are specifically intended to protect an influx of redshanks during winter months. There are also 52 Local Nature Conservation Sites in Greenock.

According to the website ‘Air Quality in Scotland’, Greenock has a ‘Low’ air pollution rating of only 3. This is perhaps due to the lack of industrial buildings which produce high emissions

Investigating Urban Environment with a primary 5 class

Having researched my urban environment for myself, I am keen to relate it to primary teaching and showing pupils more about where they live.

I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish society. SOC 2-03a

I feel Greenock is a perfect example for this outcome as they is so much history about its industry and economy, in particular shipbuilding, sugar and wool manufacturing which they could do research of their own and find out if any family members were once involved in these industries. Another idea is finding out how historical figures such as James Watt shaped Greenock.

Having explored the ways journeys can be made, I can consider the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of transport, discussing their impact on the environment. SOC 2-09a

A fairly simple but effective investigation to find out the advantages and disadvantages is taking the children out of the class environment and letting them see for themselves the effects that transport would have an effect on the environment. They could do this by smelling their surroundings to notice the pollution, or ask them once they leave school to smell the pollution of the cars picking up pupils.


Air Quality in Scotland (2017). Latest Pollution Map. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 21 September 2017].

Visit Scotland (2017). Greenock. [Online}. Available: [Accessed 21 September]

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