Scottish pupils learn to work with nature

Inspired by a pioneering ecovillage in the Scottish county of Moray, children in 46 local primary and secondary schools are using specially designed eco-kits to learn about low-carbon living in a practical way

Uniquely, the eco-kits enable children to see for themselves how natural systems work and how natural materials and renewable energy sources can be harnessed sustainably for uses such as water purification.

The Sustainability, Education and Carbon Reduction in Moray Schools project is run by the Park Ecovillage Trust (PET), an organisation based near the village of Findhorn and associated with The Findhorn Foundation, an international centre for holistic education.

The kits are modelled on the Park’s ‘Living Machine’ sewage treatment system, which uses naturally occurring bacteria that colonise on plant roots, to process and clean wastewater.

In April 2010, PET was awarded £240,000 from the Climate Challenge Fund to run a pilot project, which aimed to use the kits to encourage behavioural changes in households and schools, and reduce the carbon footprints of students by 10%.

Students were taught how to understand the effects of climate change and how to measure and reduce their own carbon footprints, as well as those of their families and friends. A recent survey of participants indicated that the project’s target had been exceeded, with an average carbon footprint reduction of 17%.

PET received a further £160,000 to continue and develop the project in 2011 and the team aims to eventually deploy the kits across the country.

To find solutions to the challenges that climate change presents, PET believes it is necessary to invest in preparing the next generation. Roger Doudna, PET project manager, said students particularly enjoy the interactive aspect of the teaching. He believes the project could be the start of a new direction in climate change education.

“We reckon that if we can teach about nature and its primary workings to students, this will help them realise that cooperation with nature, rather than its domination and exploitation, is the key to their, indeed our, mutual survival and wellbeing,” said Roger.

Roger added that the scheme is having a deep impact on some students. “When given the chance to express some of the deeper feelings evoked by climate change, what we’re discovering is that students feel empowered to do something about it. They also re-awaken their instinctive curiosity about, and love for, nature itself.”