Students take action against climate change at St Catherine of Siena

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23rd Nov 2021

At St. Catherine's, our curriculum is flexible and we strive to adapt it to reflect what is currently happening in the world. COP26 and the issue of climate change are key concerns for us as Catholics. We therefore set a whole school Religious Education project, linking COP26 to Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si. As a Catholic school, we believe that we are stewards of creation and that we are all called at our Baptism to follow God’s commands, including taking care of the planet. We have a duty to look after our common home and to stand up for those who are being most affected by climate change – the poor and marginalised.

As well as learning why as Catholics we should care about the planet and our global neighbours, it was vital that the pupils also learn the importance of doing. Our Mission Statement is, "Be who God created you to be and you will set the world on fire." We believe that all of our children should live up to their full potential and take action in the world. We want our pupils to be agents for change, to seek justice and set the world on fire. Throughout the unit, there has been a range of cross-curricular work including the use of ICT, art, writing, music and even taking part in a peaceful protest. Each class had a different focus, including the creation story, water, the ‘Live Simply’ message and the effect of extreme weather on the poorest in the world.

Year 6 were inspired by Greta Thunberg, who showed them that age doesn't matter: regardless of who you are, one person can make a difference. Years 2 and 6 recorded videos to put on Twitter to encourage others to become more eco-friendly in the way they live their lives. Year 6’s video was also played on BBC Three Counties Radio – this is fantastic as the children wanted to reach as wide an audience as possible.

There is often negativity around children using social media, so we wanted to show our pupils how to use their voice and the platform in a positive way. The kids have absolutely loved the work we have done; they have showed such passion and enthusiasm. There has been a real buzz around the whole topic and exceptional learning going on, in a real-life context. The children know that they are a part of something important. They are the generation who will be living with the consequences of the decisions made now and are now inspired to make a change.

We are thrilled that the impact of this project has been that each child and staff member has made an individual climate pledge and we have created our own St Cath’s ‘Paris Agreement’, which includes long-term targets for sustainability in school. Our pupils are now challenging the Leadership of DoWAT to make systemic sustainability plans and for the individual DoWAT schools to step up and follow St Cath’s example – if they have not already taken similar action!