How can we engage pupils with the environment?

Sponsored: Author and teacher John Widdowson explores the environmental themes in the latest edition of Common Entrance 13+ Geography for ISEB CE and KS3

Earlier this month, world leaders gathered in Glasgow for COP26. Our planet’s future depends on the discussions which took place and the decisions that were made, so all of us had more than a passing interest in what happened during COP26 and beyond. Young people in particular. The generation of students now in school are likely to still be alive at the end this century and will have to deal with the projected rise in global temperature and the changes in climate this will bring.

Perhaps it was in response to the climate emergency that ISEB re-introduced the environment theme into the new Common Entrance specification we are now teaching. But, equally, it could also be in recognition of the intrinsic interest that children and young people have in their environment.

Greta Thunberg is not the only young person worried about what is happening to our planet. Going back to my own teenage years in the 1970s, I remember reading a book called Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson, and being horrified at the way in which pesticides used in agriculture were decimating bird populations. It persuaded me to find the only environmental degree in the country being offered at the time at Wye College, London University’s agricultural college. That, in turn, led to a career teaching geography.

Today’s school students are no less concerned about their environment than I was. Before the pandemic, thousands of students around the world went on climate marches inspired by Greta Thunberg. A few weeks ago, a group of schoolchildren quizzed Boris Johnson over Zoom about what our government are doing to protect our environment (and were shocked that he doesn’t rate recycling!). In London Sadiq Khan has introduced the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in response to high levels of pollution that causes breathing problems among children.

Environmental issues at each of these levels – global, national and local – are dealt with in a new chapter of the latest edition of Common Entrance 13+ Geography for ISEB CE and KS3, matching changes in the CE Geography specification. Students begin by carrying out an audit of their own school to find out what is being done to protect the environment.

They broaden the scale to investigate air pollution around the school and devise their own plan to reduce air pollution from traffic. At the national level they examine the impact of tourism on the environment through a case study of the Lake District. They also consider the future of our energy supply here in the UK, an issue that, increasingly, is in the news.

Finally, the elephant in the room – global warming. Above all, this is the issue that has pushed our concerns about the environment to the fore and drives our search for more sustainable ways of living. In the book, students examine the facts about global warming, its causes and its impacts. They learn about different types of pollution – air, water and land pollution – making connections between their own behaviour and the wider environmental problems we face.

That leaves one big question we should all be asking – what actions can we take to improve our environment?

John Widdowson is author of Galore Park’s new Common Entrance 13+ Geography for ISEB CE and KS3 series as well as other successful Geography for Common Entrance resources. Find out more about John here

The new Common Entrance 13+ Geography for ISEB CE and KS3 Textbook, eBook and Textbook Answers align to the new ISEB CE 13+ specifications for first teaching from September 2021 and for first examinations from November 2022. Learn more about the new Geography for Common Entrance series, view a sample and order the new resources here

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