‘IT’S a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught.’
A song lyric from the 1950s’ Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, may seem like a strange way to introduce a feature about a primary school’s environmental programme but, after an hour in the company of St Lawrence School’s eco club, these words seem very fitting.
Already, the pupils have ‘reprimanded’ head teacher Amory Charlesworth for having a light on ‘unnecessarily’ in his office and have recounted the presentations they have delivered to their school community on climate change.
Indeed, one of these presentations has been shared across the Island, with the children producing a video, as part of the Government of Jersey’s climate conversation, outlining key messages about the environmental crisis.
The children’s words from the video are:
‘Climate change is our planet heating up.
‘Temperatures around the world are getting hotter.
‘That doesn’t mean we’re getting nicer weather, it means ice caps melting, sea levels rising, droughts, changes to rain and more crazy weather.
‘Greenhouse gases in the atmospheres, such as carbon dioxide and water vapour, all trap heat so they’re warming up the planet, like wrapping it in a blanket.
‘We need some greenhouses gases in the air so it’s warm and keeps everyone alive.
‘But levels of gases in the atmosphere have got higher, fast, and this is what’s making the planet get hotter.
‘The mural on the Waterfront shows the climate stripes. Each stripe shows a recorded change of temperature in Jersey. Blue is good, red is bad.
‘Fossil fuels such as oil and gas and coal are formed over millions of years of decomposing plants and other things buried beneath layers of sediment and rock.
‘These are burnt to provide the world with energy to generate electricity, heat, fuel cars and power machines that make everything from steel to plastics.
‘Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas emissions.
‘Levels of carbon dioxide are one and half times higher than in the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago.
‘Scientists agree that most of this is because of our activities.
‘All of the world leaders came together and committed to take action to tackle climate change.
‘Carbon neutral means we need to balance things out, making sure that for all the emissions we put into our atmosphere we take the same amount out.
‘We can do this by reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn and make up for the emissions we can’t avoid by absorbing greenhouse gases elsewhere… either by growing trees or other clever processes that can remove carbon dioxide from the air.
‘Joining Jersey’s climate conversation is a good place to start.’
They are messages which have clearly struck a chord with the pupils, as they eagerly describe the initiatives the club has launched to reduce the school’s carbon footprint and talk about their biggest environmental concerns and the actions they are taking to help to tackle this issue.
‘One of our main activities this term is composting,’ explains Sophia (9). ‘We realised that we were throwing most of our rubbish away so we put composting buckets in each classroom and members of the eco club collect these buckets after lunch and empty the contents into our special composting bin.’
And it seems that the benefits of this simple activity extend beyond the environment.
‘It also encourages us to eat healthily as fruit skins and bread crusts are great for composting and we want to fill our buckets as much as possible,’ Sophia added.
In another initiative, the school is supporting Durrell’s Cans for Corridors project, collecting aluminium cans which are then recycled to create tree corridors to restore links between fragmented sections of the Brazilian rainforest, an area home to some of the rarest wildlife in the world including the black lion tamarin.
A little closer to home, the children have also been casting their eye over ways to minimise litter in the school grounds.
‘We noticed some rubbish in the playground and also realised that the design of the bins meant that sometimes they “spat” the rubbish back out,’ they explained. ‘We are therefore working with Mr Amory and Miss Fitzgerald [founder of the eco club] to find a way of solving this problem.’
With the pupils’ eyes and minds firmly on all matters environmental, ecoJersey asked each member of the club what they thought of when it came to climate change and what they were doing to minimise their carbon footprint.
For Nina, the answer related to eco club activities. ‘I want to see less litter on the ground,’ she said. ‘We have done lots of litter picks in the eco club and I hope that our new project to modify the bins will reduce the amount of rubbish we find in the grounds.’
Sophia’s first thoughts were about transport.
‘I think about walking or cycling more and trying to reduce the number of cars on the roads,’ she said.
This sentiment was shared by Zac, who added: ‘I think about ice caps melting and sea levels rising. I think we can all help by doing simple things like switching off the lights and walking to places instead of jumping in the car.’
Echoing his views was Joseph. ‘I think about gases, electricity usage and pollution. Using cars less, composting more and switching off the lights are all things we should be doing.’
Practising what they preach, in addition to their composting activities, a monitor from the club checks all the classrooms each day to make sure that the lights have been switched off when class is dismissed.
Meanwhile, Tatiana’s inspiration came from the school’s Cans for Corridors participation.
‘When I think about climate change, I think about all the animals dying. I try not to use too much electricity and I recycle cans to help build corridors to restore the Amazon rainforest.’
Also conscious of the impact of environmental change and human activity on the rainforest, Luca said: ‘I think about the rainforests and think people should try to avoid using products which contain palm oil. I also like our composting initiative and often go around the classrooms after lunch to collect the buckets.’
Similarly aware of the effects of deforestation, Tate added: ‘We need to plant more trees. I watch MrBeast on YouTube and, for every pound that people donate, he plants a tree.’
Keen to know more about MrBeast’s environmental activities, ecoJersey discovered that, in conjunction with fellow YouTuber Mark Rober, MrBeast launched a campaign to raise $20 million to fund the planting of 20 million trees before 2020.
All money donated goes to the Arbor Day Foundation, which started the ambitious planting project in January 2020. By February 2021, over $22m had been raised, and more than 7.1 million trees planted.
The final member of the eco club to share his thoughts was Sebastian who shared the concerns about ice caps and deforestation.
‘I think that people in Jersey should think more about solar power,’ he said. ‘When you look around, there are not very many solar panels yet so we could do a lot more work there to reduce our use of fossil fuels.’
More information about the climate conversation and the eco-related activities taking place is available at gov.je/environment.