The Network for Social and Educational Equity and Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland has been working with two schools in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland on a project aimed at ensuring children’s voices on climate change are heard by decision makers at this year’s COP26 summit and beyond.
Here, teacher Katie Shearer, who works at St Eunan’s Primary School in Clydebank shares with us her reflections on the work so far…
“In September at the start of our project, I introduced my class of (10 and 11 year olds) to the class in Chile and asked them if they knew where Chile was. I was surprised to learn that very few of them had actually heard of Chile and immediately associated it with the food that they might have for dinner.
“This led to an exploration of countries, capital cities and continents, and the children becoming far more familiar with the world map. As a teacher, I knew this comparison would need to be very basic initially, so learning a little more about Chile became a priority, before we could begin to consider climate issues within the county and compare them with our own.”
“We spent some time exploring more of Scotland and South America, in particular Chile, and it was eye-opening. The class were so keen to investigate and find out more. We used Google Earth to see Chile up close and they commented on how “dry and desert-like” it looked in comparison with Scotland.
“They also couldn’t believe the size of Chile when it was scaled up against Scotland. Initially, before looking into the currency, they expected Chile to be a wealthy country due to its size and heat, which interested me that they had associated a warmer climate with economic growth/stability.
Discussions around wealth
“The children were shocked to see the peso against the pound and were assuming that everyone in Chile was rich. After discussion, most of them were surprised to learn that lots of pesos didn’t equal lots of pounds and were instantly interested to ask why that might be the case?
“This then led to more discussion about what ‘wealth’ actually means… some of the children initially thought that wealth was based more on materialistic things and a few commented on wealth of experiences and family. I loved these discussions, as it felt like we were talking about significant, life lesson things.
“Our first meeting with the Chilean pupils took place at the end of September. Chaos! Positive, constructive chaos. The children thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet the Chilean pupils and I think being able to talk to them in real time made the experience far more positive and one to remember. The children, albeit excited, were really nervous about speaking on camera and overly excited about the whole concept. By the time we had our second meeting at the beginning of October, the children had gained in confidence and wanted to share their thoughts and ideas.
Links between Chile and Scotland
“After the first meeting, the children wanted to explore more of the climate issues within Chile and see if there were any links between Chile and Scotland. We started to look at images. The children initially didn’t know where they were happening or what country the images came from. We used the ‘I see… I think… I wonder…’ technique to explain what they could see and annotate the images.
“They were shocked to realise that the images had been taken from real-life events in Chile and Scotland within the past five years, such as flooding, forest fires and student protests. When they looked at the protest images, my pupils thought these looked aggressive and unsafe, and they were surprised to find out the protestors were promoting a positive message.
“In some of the images there were things that the children hadn’t even noticed, such as the sea bird, lying dead on the shore due to plastic pollution, which made me think that maybe there were too many images? Although the children moved around in smaller groups for annotation, perhaps the amount of images and times to annotate became overwhelming for them.
“All in all, I have found the whole experience fascinating, and can see how confident and articulate the children have become. It has been an eye-opening, memorable experience and instilled a level of passion within our young people about our planet’s state.”
The Chilean school children will be joining their Scottish counterparts virtually at an event during COP26 at the University of Glasgow on November 10 at 9am to 12pm.