Turriff Academy pupils ideas on climate change heard in international project

Turriff Academy pupils explore impact of climate change on farming economy with peers around the world

A group of 16 pupils from Turriff Academy are having their views and ideas on climate change heard as part of an international project to develop a school-centred approach to climate education.

They participated in the 1.5 Max Global Schools’ Climate Summit alongside pupils from seven other Scottish schools as well as young people from Mozambique, Malawi and Nepal ahead of the October holidays.

The solutions they came up with to challenges they had identified locally are to be showcased online at https://1.5max.org/ for a global audience during COP26.

The Turriff pupils were asked to take a ‘problem statement’ along to the summit to discuss with young people from across the globe. They identified that Aberdeenshire’s farming economy will be affected by increasingly disrupted rain and snowfall, and rising temperatures, and had begun to investigate how this may impact their local community in the long run.

They worked collaboratively on creating practical solutions to the problems facing their community as well as those on the other side of the planet. The idea is that young people are then empowered with realistic and achievable steps they can make towards tackling climate change themselves.

They each made a personal pledge as to how they, their families and their schools can contribute to reducing the impacts of climate change. These pledges included:

  • I pledge to educate on the importance of insects to those around me, through my friends, family and community.
  • I pledge to eat more locally-sourced foods and use public transport whenever I can.
  • I pledge to educate people on what they can do to make a difference, and make my own life more sustainable.
  • I pledge to speak to teachers about involving the issue of climate change into the school curriculum.

The Turriff pupils decided to create a ‘product’, in the form of a board game, they could use to educate local people. They are also planning to create more green spaces around their school and improve the ones they have already in order to increase habitat for insects. They will also be writing to their local MP about how public transport could be improved and hope to inspire the local community on the importance of planting pollinators and encourage planting of more bee-friendly plants.

Board game created by academy students

Biology teacher Rowan Cannell who led the pupils in this important project commented

I am so proud of the pupils and what they achieved during this event. They acted with maturity and showed real compassion when faced with how climate change is already affecting so many communities around the world. A common theme in the pupils’ reflections on the event was that they felt inspired to make a difference – we hope to build on that inspiration with our sustainability group to affect some real change in our community.

S5 student Hannah White, reflected on the experience with a real sense of the impact hearing from young people in other parts of the world has had on her. She said

I have learned about how different countries are suffering as a result to the rising temperatures and sea levels while being inspired by how many communities have adapted to save their homes. The children of Palau have come together to form a pledge all tourists must sign to preserve their small island home. It’s shocking how the countries who have contributed least to the rising temperatures are facing the most extreme consequences, with the ocean threatening to devour some, if not all, low-lying areas as water level rise.

The Schools’ Climate Summit was organised by Sustainability Partnerships in partnership with Education Scotland and their aim is to inspire schools, teachers and pupils across participating regions to develop their own versions of the summit program in response to COP26 and the ongoing climate and ecological emergency.

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Local councillor Alastair Forsyth said:

As a local councillor, I am extremely proud that Turriff Academy has taken a lead in the discussions about climate change here in Aberdeenshire and I commend teacher Rowan Cannell and the team of sixteen pupils for highlighting the disturbing and complex issues brought about by climate change.

Undeterred by the immensity of the subject, they have worked on solutions for local and international farming and economy. Giving pupils an opportunity to discuss with their peers the problems faced by agricultural economies in different countries around the world is a great experience.

I look forward to seeing their proposals to create green spaces in their local community and I wholeheartedly support their endeavours.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Chair of Education and Children’s Services Committee, Cllr Gillian Owen said

I think our talented pupils from Turriff Academy have hit the nail on the head; we all need to be doing more to educate those around us and they have made a fantastic start in terms of the actions they are planning at a local level. Well done – this is truly inspiring!

Vice-Chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce added

The 1.5 Max summit model is a great example of empowering young people to bring about change. It’s great to see and I hope it will inspire others to think globally and act locally.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services team have developed a strategy for addressing climate change in schools. This feeds into the local authority’s wider Routemap to 2030 and they are keen to encourage young people from across Aberdeenshire to work together on ideas that will make a difference. Read the strategy and share your feedback on an ‘Ideas Wall’ which can be viewed at https://engage.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/ecs-strategy

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