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60 schools take part in climate conference

The first ever Schools’ Climate Conference was held online in July, with 60 schools in attendance, learning more about their role in tackling climate change.

The conference

The Schools’ Climate Conference took place over 3 days in early July 2021, open to all primary and secondary schools in South Yorkshire. The conference explored what climate change is, why we need to be concerned about it, and what we can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the planet and its people.

It featured a variety of organisations and individuals doing amazing work in climate change, education and related fields. From practical sessions such as constructing a solar-powered car or cooking for a plant-based diet, to creating comics and performing puppet theatre using vegetables, the conference engaged young people in the climate emergency in unique and fun ways.

Highlights from the conference included an inspiring opening speech from Dame Sarah Storey, Active Travel Commissioner for Sheffield City Region, who reminded the students of the incredible amount of influence and power they can have in making change. Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake gave interesting insights into the political landscape on climate change, and two Sheffield teenagers gave speeches about why they had been taking part in strikes for the climate. Students were even invited on board with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, who spoke about marine biology and practical conservation work out at sea.

“It’s really important that young people are involved in the conversation about climate change.''
Patrick Wakefield, Youth Strike 4 Climate, Sheffield.

Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire: Their story

Concerned that the school curriculum, particularly for secondary students, did not place enough emphasis on the climate emergency, a group of volunteers came together to do something about it. Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire (SCESY) was formed in the summer of 2019, aiming to organise conferences for schools in South Yorkshire, with climate change as the central theme.

SCESY aims to encourage schools to educate young people to become active citizens, enable their discussion and participation in tackling the climate emergency, empower them to become local climate champions, and much more. They want to support students, teachers and schools on their climate education journey, as well as embedding climate change into all areas of the national curriculum.

The conference went ahead with the hard work of a small volunteer team, their production manager, support from Can Do South Yorkshire partner organisations and a successful crowdfunding campaign where supporters raised over £1000. The SCESY team have created a valuable resource, through recording the workshops and making them available for free download, as well as leaving a lasting impression on the students who attended the conference.

Educating students for a sustainable future

The Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire (SCESY) team wants to continue to work with schools and authorities in Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield to deliver an annual conference, ensuring that every student in South Yorkshire has the opportunity to access educational climate workshops and resources. They hope to reach even more schools next year.

At Can Do South Yorkshire, we know how important it is to celebrate success. There is a lot of great work going on in schools across the region, and these stories can spark ideas and inspire others. At the conference, four schools and Barnsley Youth Council were able to showcase their environmental action through a series of short videos at the conference. SCESY hopes to be able to share many more success stories on their blog, so if you’re part of a school group taking climate action, no matter how big or small, SCESY would love to hear about it.

How can you take action?

SCESY created an inspirational, fun and transformative experience for students, teachers and school leaders in both primary and secondary education settings. They engaged hundreds of students in climate action, equipping them with the vital tools they need to make change in the world as active citizens. But, there is still a lot of work to be done – climate change needs to be embedded into the school curriculum at all levels.

SCESY is looking for volunteers to help run the conference again next year, and to work all year round to make sure climate change becomes a central part of the school curriculum. If you would like to help out, please contact [email protected], or visit their website for more information.