Around Christmas 2013, I had just finished my first semester of my first year of university and had some time to reflect on my experiences so far. Despite the excitement of all the new opportunities available to me, I hadn’t yet become involved in any societies. I had also become increasingly drawn to Liverpool, my new city, and wanted to move beyond the usual circles of students to get to know the real city a bit better. I was looking for something worthwhile to become involved in, and this was when I heard about the Green Schools Project.
The idea of going into a school in Liverpool to develop and run a project based on green issues appealed to my interest in giving something back to the community of my host city, as well as giving me some experience in a classroom as I was considering the possibility of going into teaching.
The element of promoting environmental sustainability wasn’t my major attraction to the project, although I recognised it as a good cause to pursue. I’ve always tried to live in an environmentally-friendly way - in my family this has always been an unconscious part of home life. Now as a student, I felt I had more responsibility to be conscious of the environmental impact of my own lifestyle. Our halls were well equipped with the means to be environmentally-friendly thanks to the work of the Green Guild, but after watching housemates carefully fold up cardboard boxes only to throw them into the general waste bin, right next to a recycling bin, it was clear that some people just don’t ‘get it’.
Evidently, instilling a consciousness about environmentally-friendly living early on is the right course of action. Not only do kids latch onto these ideas when introduced to them, they can also take them home and pass them on to their families. Through Green Schools, I was given the responsibility to deliver a project originally designed by a student committee from the primary school I was assigned to.
Their proposal was a project making bird houses and bug boxes from recycled materials to be sold at an Eco Fayre, raising money to develop their school Eco-Garden. My role was to direct this project whilst trying to instil the meaning two key buzzwords into the students’ minds: sustainability and biodiversity. Even I had to go back to my GCSE Geography days to really think about these words and how I could explain their meanings to 6-11 year-olds.
Although I had been very nervous about the responsibilities I had in my role, when thrown into the sessions, which were hour-long and delivered to a group of mixed-age students in a reward group, it was much easier than I had expected as the kids were so enthusiastic and eager to learn. The final outcome, the Eco Fayre, was a great success with an unexpectedly good turn-out from parents and profits of over £150 raised for the Eco-Garden- a real example of sustainable development.
The experience was a learning curve for both me and the school through some of the challenges we encountered. Mainly these were time-related and practical concerns that meant that we struggled to gather sufficient and appropriate recycled materials for the bird houses. Yet as Lisa, the teaching assistant I worked with, pointed out, it was a great experience for the school to gain new ideas for similar future projects.
The project was a new experience for me and for the school I worked with and I think both sides gained a lot from it. I saw how the money granted by the Green Start-Up Fund made a practical difference to the school, one in a fairly poor area of the city with limited time and staff available to pursue their objectives in areas of environmental concerns (as a designated Eco-School, they had further responsibilities to this).
The most valuable thing I gave them was my time, and I got a lot back from that investment- the pleasure of working with fun and enthusiastic children, real practical classroom experience and an introduction to a part of Liverpool totally outside of the main student haunts which I may not otherwise have seen. I got everything I aimed for from the Green Schools Project, and furthermore it opened my eyes to some of the challenges presented by pursuing sustainable development- and the rewards of it too.
- Amy Beswick, second year undergraduate, University of Liverpool