As I noted the other day, the University of Reading held a Climate Education Summit on September 15th. It aimed to attract young people, scientists, teachers, policy wonks and activists in order to create "a new, nationwide action plan for better climate education in schools and colleges."
The format for each session was an introduction by a senior Reading academic which was followed by an introduction from a media moderator (Tom Clark (session 1) and Laura Tobin (session 2)). In each session the moderator was followed by two 10 minute presentations: Josh Tregale and Baroness Brown – Julia King as was – (Session 1) and Serena Bashal and Craig Bennett (session 2). This left 25 to 30 minutes for the presenters to respond to questions posed by members of the audience. This was a relatively generous allocation of time compared to many such conferences, but, of course, the questioner had no come-back on what the presenters said, and we were all limited by what the moderators felt were the best questions.
The main messages were that young people ought to be given greater opportunities to learn about climate change at school, and that this should be holistic, joined up, systemic, etc, etc, and involve critical thinking etc, etc. This was, unlike climate change itself perhaps, not Earth-shatteringly novel in curriculum terms.
Then there was the notion that the environment / climate ought to be "a golden thread" running through a child's experience of schools. This clichéd suggestion was received with more enthusiasm than it surely warranted. As I am writing this I am sure that the new secretary of state is being inundated with this same idea on behalf of a host of special interest groups. It was a great pity that the sort of critical thinking that everyone was calling for wasn't applied to this suggestion. But then, none of them had much experience of thinking about curriculum.
I gave up on the second session half-way through as it got repetitious. Laura Tobin, the moderator, had literally got it off to a flying start when she said that although she's hoped to hear the first session, she'd been flying back from the Arctic where she'd been broadcasting for Good Morning Britain about climate change.
You really had to admire the chutzpah of this, and surely many would have found it jarring at an event focusing on climate change. Indeed, as I subsequently discovered, there had already been criticism of the GMB stunt by viewers.
But on thinking about it, these armchair twitter critics had surely got it wrong as it was "good" carbon dioxide that Tobin and her team were producing as they flew to Svalbard and back. This was because it was created in a good cause: that of educating the hoi polloi about climate change. We surely all need to remember that this CO2 is quite unlike the bad gas that gets made when kerosene is burned to allow you and yours to pop down to the Costa Whatever for a frivolous holiday, or when natural gas is burnt merely to keep us warm.
Well done Laura Tobin: you truly are a high-flying environmental educator in every sense.