Members of Northgate and Dereham Sixth Form College’s Earth Summit Team headed to the Sixth Form on 12th October to take part in the much-anticipated Virtual Earth Summit. They were joined by students from four UK schools and two schools in Sweden. The aim of the day was to present how each team is getting on with their project goals but also to inspire each other further moving forward.

The first task of the day was the presentations. Our team had previously met to put together our presentation – we were limited to 5 slides, each of which had to answer a specific question:

  • What are your ‘Take Action’ goals for 2021-22?
  • Why are these goals important to you and your community?
  • What are the challenges that you’re likely to face and how do you plan to overcome them?
  • How will you know if you are on track to meet your goals?
  • How will you share what you have learnt with your community?

Our team had a number of goals, set out in their action plan from last March – these included a focus on our recycling schemes, raising awareness with a social media campaign, planting trees, upcycling filing cabinets into planters and reducing the paper waste at school. There are plenty more ideas in the pipeline but in the time we had before the Earth Summit these are ones students felt would be manageable. They wanted actions that lots of people could get involved in, with everyone feeling they can contribute in some way. They also wanted to educate and influence others through the use of social media as well as changing mind sets – change comes through small actions. The host of the summit was impressed with what had been achieved so far and another school said they particularly liked out #TopTipsTuesday social media posts and their school might now do something similar.

It was really interesting for students to listen to the presentations of the other schools and to get further ideas of projects we can put into place at Northgate. Everyone was so passionate about their ideas and knowing that all the schools are having an impact, however big or small, felt really good. It has definitely given our team some further ideas and we can’t wait to get working on them.

In the second session we heard from Claire Wallenstein from Cornwall Climate Care. She showed some short documentaries about the work going on in Cornwall to highlight the climate change emergency, making it relevant to the local people and reaching unengaged audiences. She talked about how storms impacted the seal population, the growing of different seaweeds and kelp, which can be incorporated into the local cow’s feed, meaning they burp less and create less methane gas! There was also a company making artificial reefs from 80% recycled material, not only to help protect the coastline but also the habitats as well. Claire said that we all have skills to help fight the climate and ecological emergency and spoke about a huge variety of ‘green’ jobs. She concluded her inspiring talk by saying, ‘if you are passionate about something and have a good idea, you can make it happen.’ This certainly rang true with our students.

Before lunch we looked at an online platform called Lyfta. We were immersed into an interactive 3D story world, where students could explore videos, 3D images and texts. We explored Andrea’s yard, where Andrea, who lived in Argentina, worked on a garbage heap. She sorted the waste and used it to make items she could sell. It really made us think about what we throw away and the environmental impact. We live in such a technological and throwaway lifestyle now and perhaps ought to be making better choices – do we really need the latest phone, a new pair of trainers, new computer game?

After lunch it was time to test our knowledge in a fiercely competitive ‘Who wants to be a sustainability champion’ quiz. There were some really interesting facts to make you think, which our team will be sharing as part of our #ThinkEcoThursday posts on social media. Our team managed to score a respectable 15/25, however the main takeaway from this part of the day was that small changes can make a big difference and it is everyone’s responsibility to do something.

Miss Theobald, School Council Coordinator said, ‘attending the virtual earth summit was a great opportunity for our students. They are passionate about doing their bit for the environment and were excited to share their progress with the other schools. It was really inspiring to hear about the projects in the other schools and know that we are part of something bigger. We know it is not just about educating people, but taking action that is important as well. We hope that some of the projects our team have been working on and will work on in the future, will inspire others to do their bit.’

Milo who is part of the team, commented, ‘Despite enjoying every aspect of the day, I personally enjoyed the ‘Who wants to be a sustainable champion?’ quiz the most. The questions really got me thinking, and some of the answers to the questions were shocking. It was a fun and interactive way to learn about the severity of our climate crisis. I learnt a lot from the experience. I learnt about what small things the other schools have been doing to help improve our planet and with all of us involved, it can turn into a big improvement and we know that we were a part of saving our globe. I learnt that our actions as a MEDC have consequences, as seen when exploring Andrea’s yard, on LEDCs such as Argentina. We, as a country, don’t realise that when we throw things away, they end up in places like where Andrea works, sorting through our rubbish and making a living from it. It’s shocking that people across the world have to endure the brunt of our actions.’

Emma said of the day, ‘I learnt so many facts about the climate crisis at the Earth Summit meeting, some stunning and some rather distressing facts. However, there is a chance that if we work together and collaborate as a community, for us, our children, future generations, and the world we live in, to enjoy a happy and healthy future.’ She revealed, ‘I think the main thing I will take away is to look on the positive side. There are certain ways you can try to get people involved, however, if it’s all doom and gloom, what’s the point? Before the meeting, I was thinking very negatively towards the environmental concerns of our planet. But afterwards, it changed me, and the whole working together part of it, increased my positivity.’

Emma said, ‘My favourite part of the day was listening to the other schools and seeing the commitment that some people put into their projects. It is commitment that we need. If we were all committed to solving global climate change, we would have done it by now. It’s only small steps for a small carbon footprint.’