More than 100 London secondary school pupils are being offered the chance to engage with climate change research and express their feelings and concerns about the challenges facing the planet as part of a project led by Kingston University.
As world leaders discuss global actions during the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, a group of Year 10 pupils will visit the University to take part in two days of climate change discussions, using an online platform called ArcGIS StoryMaps to create spatial stories with images, videos and text to document their thoughts and feelings on the subject.
During their visit next week, the pupils from Springwest Academy and Logic Studio School in Feltham, Hounslow, will be involved in discussions on the causes and consequences of climate change and receive support in developing ideas for their story maps, which can be based on a piece of creative writing or art, or on factual resources such as datasets and graphics.
They will be supported in their project work by lecturers from the University’s Department of Geology, Geography and the Environment and student ambassadors from across the University, who help deliver various projects on campus and in the community.
The team has also developed online resources which can be used in the classroom and a virtual workshop involving Year 9 pupils from a third school, Redden Court School in Romford, will be held later this month. Members of the public will be able to see the pupils’ final story map creations at an exhibition at Kingston University’s Stanley Picker Gallery for three days from Thursday 25 November.
Dr Mary Kelly, Geography course leader in the University’s School of Engineering and the Environment, came up with the idea for the project when her Geography BSc students produced story maps as part of their course work. The initiative got under way after attracting funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
“Producing these story maps will develop the schoolchildren’s skills across a range of subject areas from geography and science to digital skills and the arts, while raising their awareness of climate change and giving them a voice on the issues,” Dr Kelly said. “The project is an excellent example of how the University works with schools. We want to increase knowledge about climate change among young people and give them a platform so they can produce their own account of what interests and concerns them.”
As part of the preparation for the project, Dr Kelly’s team created some story map examples using poetry, folklore, and drawings to illustrate how climate change impacts on people and places.
Ensuring schoolchildren feel their voices are heard in the climate change debate was why creating opportunities such as this one are so important, Natalie Potter, a second-year Geography BSc (Hons) student and University student ambassador, said. “I hope this project gives these young people the confidence and understanding that all our views and actions are important in the role of future sustainability and climate change,” she added.
“Through producing their story maps, the pupils will learn about the climate crisis and understand the potential of a more sustainable climate. It might also be the first time some of them have visited a university and I am excited to talk to them about studying geography at degree level and the work we do.”
Ben Hayward, a second-year Geography BSc (Hons) student and student ambassador, hoped the project would encourage pupils to become more engaged with climate change actions and to live in a more sustainable way. “Communicating information spatially in this way is very effective in helping people develop an understanding of a topic,” he said. “This project allows pupils to express their climate concerns and hopefully will inspire them to be the voice of the next generation and do what is necessary for the future of our planet.”
The University’s engagement with school pupils on climate change is part of its broader portfolio of outreach work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which is a priority for schools and the government, Tim Dhir, the University’s education liaison and outreach manager, said. “We have been keen to embed climate change and sustainability across all of our activities and have already run sessions for schools on topics as diverse as clean energy, efficient wind turbines and the challenges of plastics recycling,” he said.
The latest project is part of a series of public engagement activities funded by UKRI and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which aim to engage young people and give them a voice on the issue of climate change, while also developing their skills and knowledge as the next generation likely to be involved in climate change research, discussion, and action. The investment coincides with COP26 and supports the summit’s objectives including championing the voices of communities not usually heard in climate discussion.