I was recently invited to work with SEEd at their National Sustainable Schools Conference in London. SEEd are a brilliant charity focusing on the importance of learning for environmental sustainability, and the task of getting this into the national curriculum so that more young people grow up equipped with the knowledge and understanding they need to be able to live and work sustainably.
SEEd is; Sustainability and Environmental Education, and you can visit their website and find out more about who they are and what they do here.
So what’s the National Sustainable Schools Conference all about?
It’s a learning and networking event, hosted by SEEd and supported by an organisation called Supply Chan!ge, where schools, universities, providers, campaigners, organisations, students and experts, can all come together to learn about how they can be more environmentally sustainable, what other people and organisations are already working on, and just why this is so important for all of us.
The day was an exciting mix of brilliant keynote speakers, exciting stalls set up by organisations, schools and charities involved in Environmental Sustainability, and a whole host of interactive workshops delivered by a range of professionals.
We stayed the night in London and got there early in the morning to begin setting up and preparing the space. Banners were set up, stallholders were directed to their spots, signs were arranged and workshop rooms were all prepped.
At about 8.30am people began to arrive, getting their badges and programmes and choosing which workshops they’d like to take part in. Then at 9.15am the first keynote speeches began with Ann Finlayson, SEEd’s Executive Chair, welcoming everyone and explaining a little bit about what was going to happen during the day.
Following Ann’s welcome were keynote speeches from James Murry, Editor-in-Chief of Business Green, and Georgina Stevens, Author of the Be The Change children’s books.
Both speeches were inspiring, with both James and Georgina detailing their journeys, and how their passion for sustainable practise had formed and shaped their lives and their businesses.
A short Q & A session followed, then a chance for teas and coffees, and for people to have a look around some of the stalls before the first workshop started at 10.45am.
The workshops kicked off to a great start, and continued throughout the day in the same fashion. There were three lots of four workshops in total, covering a variety of topics, including evaluating the global supply chain, empowering young people to make sustainable decisions about their food, the nature and biodiversity doorway, effectively bringing and leading environmental projects in schools, and the SDG’s and how they link to all our work.
Being a floating, helpful work person I nosed in on pretty much all of the workshops and was just totally blown away by how good they were. Each one was packed full of really interesting information that pushed you to reevaluate what you thought you knew and how you could incorporate new information and practises into your life and work. But they weren’t just full of great information, they were also incredibly interactive; there was no time to nod off in the corner – you had work to do!
From individually thinking about what different subjects meant to us, to working collaboratively to come up with ways of displaying data and ideas, to getting creative with a range of different materials, there was so much to do, learn, and take away that it was mind boggling. Each audience was engaged and involved, thinking, learning and developing.
It was a huge collaborative effort, with people working together to explore new ideas and ways of thinking, and producing some really in-depth and exciting work and strategies that they could take home and begin to put into practise.
Throughout the lunch break there were several networking sessions that people could get involved in if they wanted, and a talk by James Veness about how his passion for sustainability and the environment took him on an adventure all the way from Nottingham to Antarctica with one of his hero’s.
While this was going on there was also the perfect opportunity to have a look around the share fair; a collection of stalls and stands from various groups and organisations working in different areas of environmental sustainability, education, and awareness. Helping to connect people from all different organisations and encourage them to make links, work together and utilise what each other has to offer.
There were some really exciting things available, including demo’s, talks, games and books, and it was intriguing to spend some of my time wandering around and finding out who was who and what exciting projects and products were on offer.
But I couldn’t spend too long nattering or touring the fair because during lunch it was my job to hunt out the young people who had attended from various schools and ask if they would be happy to participate in a youth panel at the end of the day which would be hosted by myself.
At the end of lunch Ann introduced the SEEd team, and officially launched SEEd’s new project initiative; EASEL, the Evidence Alliance for Sustainability Education and Learning. This project aims to gather, analyse and understand the great wealth of information available on the importance of environmental education and education for sustainable development, utilising the collective knowledge and understanding of a multitude of organisations across the country to develop a comprehensive collection of usable data and evidence.
After EASEL’s launch the last bits of lunch were cleared away and the audience members went off to join their next workshop.
The workshops ran throughout the afternoon, with a short break for teas and coffees in the middle. More information was presented, more great ideas put forward, and more links made between people, practices and concepts.
At 4pm the last of the workshops finished and their occupants spilled back into the main hall, where I was met by the young people I’d spoken to earlier and tasked with talking in an impromptu youth panel in front of a live audience covering how they felt about environmental sustainability, their education, and the day in general.
Though hesitant at first in front of an audience, it didn’t take long to get the conversation started, and once they were off I was free to stand back and take notes. Warmed up, they happily went on for longer than we’d planned, and even offered to do a Q&A session with the audience which turned out to be incredibly interesting for both parties.
The ending of the youth panel brought the day to a close, and while the participants made their way out, the team began the process of packing everything away.
It was a great day had by all, stimulating both young people and adults alike to explore new concepts, revisit older ones, evaluate their own practises, and develop themselves, their organisations, their methods and their goals.
Before we could head home we had one last meeting to attend, the SEEd AGM, which ran quickly and smoothly, and left us smiling with the achievement of the day, and the purpose of our work.
Throughout the day we captured young people’s thoughts on why Sustainability and Education are important, here are some of their ideas;