In our experience, school staff and pupils care deeply about environmental issues and have a strong desire to actively protect our planet. However, environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss or plastic pollution are large global issues and the thought of tackling them can be intimidating. Many of those interested in promoting education-based eco-action will wonder:
- How and where do I begin?
- How can I involve and engage young people?
- How can I retain focus and momentum?
- How can we have a positive impact on issues so numerous, overwhelming and global such as the climate crisis or marine plastic pollution?
The Eco-Schools programme provides a solution to all these questions. Our Seven Step Framework has been designed as a very simple environmental management system that empowers young people to introduce and lead environmental actions and education in their school.
As pupils work through the Seven Steps they are able to pick three of our ten Eco-Schools topics to work on. All the Eco-Schools topics help young people engage with environmental issues that are important to them and their local community. They also cover a huge range of sustainability issues including the climate crisis, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss… each topic is also entirely open to pupil interpretation.
The simplicity of the Eco-Schools Seven Step structure makes our programme flexible, meaning it can be adapted and used in any education setting whether nursery, primary, secondary, college, SEND settings or Pupil Referral Units.
Our Seven Step framework aims to place young people at the heart of environmental action and is the main reason why the Eco-Schools programme is the largest educational programme in the world, as relevant today as it was when established in 1994. Our Seven Step framework supports young people of all ages and abilities to work together to plan, deliver, monitor and evaluate environmental actions in their school. Participating in the programme:
- Engages young people in important environmental issues.
- Demonstrates to pupils that environmental actions can be enjoyable, social and rewarding.
- Teaches responsibility and generates a sense of community.
- Develops the skills and knowledge young people need to play an active role in protecting our environment now and throughout their lifetimes.
- Empowers students with the belief that they can have a positive impact on our planet.
- Enables schools to green their entire curriculum.
Independent research has also found that pupil participation in Eco-Schools leads to: increased confidence, development of leadership skills, improved behaviour and greater motivation at school. You can view how the Eco-Schools framework links to Ofsted’s student personal development, behaviour & welfare common inspection framework here.
The Eco-Schools programme never dictates the environmental actions or projects that a school should work on and, as highlighted above, this is a great strength of our programme: it allows children to take control; it allows local problems to be tackled; it allows young people to work on the issues they are passionate about; it is inclusive to everyone; and it develops environmental knowledge and skills in young people. The impacts of the Eco-Schools programme internationally and nationally are phenomenal, we could highlight:
- Pupils from a school in St Helens, who created the world’s largest bug hotel.
- Pupils from a school in Leicester, who closed the roads surrounding their school as part of their Clean Air Day.
- Pupils from a school in Ipswich, who created a herb garden for parents to use.
- Pupils from a school in Shrewsbury, who kept bees and sold their own honey.
- Pupils from a school in Durham, who created a hedgehog highway, or pupils from a school in Colchester who identified what food hedgehogs appreciate most… or pupils from a school in Kent who sponsor a blind hedgehog at their local sanctuary!
We could also point out that it is proven Eco-Schools consume less water, use less energy and produce less waste, which creates financial savings for schools… but emphasising these examples, or financial savings, would fail to recognise the true impact and benefits of the Eco-Schools programme. The thousands of schools and students who have engaged with Eco-Schools over the past 25 years. The multiple, unique environmental actions and projects they have planned and delivered. The friendships made. The behaviours changed. The confidence gained, as thousands of individuals have worked through each of the Eco-Schools seven steps.
“Some children are lucky enough to enjoy nature at an early age, they make mud pies, lay on the grass looking at the shapes of the clouds and can identify different types of flower. At this crucial stage in their development, they learn that their environment has so much to offer, it develops their memory skills, they learn to problem solve and use creative thinking, all of which has a major impact on their maturity.
When a child gets actively involved with Eco-Schools, they enhance their development further. They build upon their previous acquired knowledge and learn to use these skills. They understand that they have a voice and that they have a safe platform to use it. They become minute makers, organisers, planners and influencers. Projects are inspired from their imagination, success is seen in a non-academic form, things get done and if they don’t there is the understanding, and sometimes frustration, of why it hasn’t been done.