A teacher of my acquaintance lives in an ethnically (and religiously) diverse area. She advised me that they have solved the “problem” of how to hold religious assemblies that might effectively exclude or offend pupils of different religions. Simple – they hold “green” assemblies instead.
I wondered how this might work, and a quick online search revealed that there are organisations dedicated to helping schools provide climate change assemblies.
Climate Ed (a registered charity) proudly announces on its website:
‘Climate change is the big challenge of this century. Young people hold the key to solving it’
Climate Ed teaches children about climate change and empowers them to take action.
100 students trained to be climate leaders
4000 students educated on climate science
How do they achieve this? Well, they start with school climate assemblies:
“We offer free climate assemblies in primary and secondary schools.
Delivered by a trained Climate Ed ambassador, these fun, stimulating and eye-opening sessions cover all the basics of climate science and include time for Q and A. They get students thinking about the climate problem, asking questions and thinking how they can take action on it.”
Then they build on the school climate assemblies, with a programme of six 40 minute workshops, focused on “climate science, carbon footprints and carbon reduction”. [Maybe they should learn that it’s CO2 that apparently causes the problem, not “carbon”].
One of their volunteers is a Climate Reality Leader from the Climate Reality Project. “She has undertaken and participated in community activities in India, Singapore, and London on the environment and climate change”. It sounds as though her carbon footprint is quite a bit bigger than mine, which strikes me as a little ironic given that one of the things Carbon Ed says it’s keen on is teaching children about carbon footprints and how to reduce them. Oh well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.
Alternatively, good old Auntie could possibly solve your climate assembly problem for you:
It’s all there for you on a plate – video to watch, framework to download, all the detail you could ask for:
First of all, you could play Elegy for the Arctic, as pupils enter. Obviously you need an introduction:
“Begin by asking the pupils to explain what the word ‘climate’ means. Then ask what ‘climate change’ means. Explain that the video is going to give us some other children’s thoughts about these things.”
Then it’s time for the video. It’s only 4 minutes 11 seconds long, so nobody’s attention should suffer too badly, and they should even manage to remember the concluding words – “…and even the little things can help.”
Then it’s time to reflect on the video, and perhaps ask again some of the questions it posed. This should be followed by a discussion. Pupils are to be encouraged to remember recent storms or heat waves and realise that this could cause problems, such as food shortages, for people all around the world. Then you should invite them to think about what changes they can make in their lives to help. Invite each class to make a pledge. Encourage them to write to the Government asking that more action should be taken.
Sing a song (it is an assembly after all – suggestions: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands; All things Bright and Beautiful).
Another opportunity should then be taken for reflection. Think about people and animals affected by climate change.
Finally, say a prayer (“We are sorry that human beings have not always treated this world with the respect that it deserves.”). Well, that’s certainly true – just think of all those wind turbines, damaged peat bogs, slaughtered birds, solar panels, rare earth mines…..
Christian Aid, another charity, offers up a variety of ready-to-use school assemblies about climate change and sustainability.
You could use the Harvest Assembly, which offers up a morality tale about a little boy in Malawi and the problems encountered there when it doesn’t rain. This “is just one example of how people are learning to live with climate change”. And for good measure, “You could finish the assembly by asking pupils to name a few things they can do to reduce pollution”.
Or you could go with “Fumes or Futures” as an assembly theme:
“Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. Engage your pupils on the topic with our Fumes or Futures assembly ideas.
These assemblies are designed to be adapted and used as a resource for either whole school, key stage or class assembly/collective worship.”
Or you could try the “More than Enough” assembly, suitable for 7-11 year olds, and which considers consumer culture and the impacts of wastefulness.
Finally, perhaps try the “Shared Planet Assembly”, and reflect on how we are all interconnected on the beautiful planet we share.
If school climate assemblies aren’t enough for you, WWF offers a lot more. Classroom resources, presentations, and information sheets are all available, on a host of topics, such as COP 26 (“Our Climate, Our Future”); Shaping our Future (“Climate themed resources and lesson plans to help young people (aged 7 – 14 years) understand what climate change is and what they can do to help tackle it); Future Visions; What is Climate Change?; and Our Frozen Worlds.
In addition, you could send for an information poster on Climate Crisis or, if you’re really serious, involve yourself with the Foundational Climate Change Curriculum for Educators.
School assemblies in the UK seem to have come a long way since I was at school, and so far as I’m concerned, that’s probably a good thing (I hated every moment of them when I was a pupil – tedious mumbo-jumbo, desultory singing of hymns, banal moralising, and attempted brainwashing).
If today’s pupils can be saved from the experience that I suffered, then that can only be a good thing, in my opinion. If school assemblies about climate change enlighten and educate, then I welcome that. Teaching children about the vulnerability of nature, humankind’s depredations, wasteful consumer culture, and the desirability of us all doing our bit for the environment strike me as much more positive and interesting than anything I endured.
However, is that how it is working in practice? I have no idea. My days as a school governor are behind me. I just hope that we haven’t replaced one load of tedious mumbo-jumbo, desultory singing of hymns, banal moralising, and attempted brainwashing with another.