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

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.

BBC

Alternatively, good old Auntie could possibly solve your climate assembly problem for you:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/assemblies-ks1-ks2-climate-change-global-warming/zbgxjsg

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

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.

WWF

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.

Conclusion

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.

16 Comments

  1. Mark, All Things Bright and Beautiful triggers memories of sitting cross-legged on the hall floor, having a crack at this or sometimes a more difficult hymn, only for the Head to go off on a major rant about how we weren’t trying, etc, saying that we would have to have another go, and he would keep us sitting there all day if we did not perform as expected (I can’t remember for sure, but I think three goes was the most).

    How I envied those kids who for reasons of their particular religion were excused from assembly. Instead, they spent their time in the library. On the few occasions I managed to get sent out for talking to my neighbour, I certainly had a better time.

    Are there kids out there getting sent out of climate assemblies, only to teach themselves something useful in the library? I really hope so.

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  2. ” 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.”

    Sounds like we already have. No doubt there will soon be custom hymns rather than borrowing ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’. After all, every culture must sing off the same hymn-sheet.

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  3. You confuse me with this last statement ” If school assemblies about climate change enlighten and educate, then I welcome that”

    but they – from your examples – don’t, how many know about interglacials ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dfhunter, the key word is “if”. My expectations are low as regards the giving of rounded information about the climate. However, if pupils are informed about the fragility of nature and the desirability of treating the environment with respect, that must be a good thing, IMO.

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  5. @John – I was ok/smiling with the song until – “each beastly little squid”
    what have the squids ever done to us ? (never seen one even)

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  6. Dfhunter,

    I agree about the squid. Any friend of batter is a friend of mine.

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  7. Assemblies aren’t enough, it seems:

    “If children are to live with the climate crisis, we must green the curriculum
    Meryl Batchelder
    It’s clear to me when I teach that sustainability and the environment should be a thread running through every subject”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/19/children-climate-crisis-green-curriculum-sustainability-environment

    “…There is still no mention of the climate crisis in the national curriculum for England in primary schools, and in key stage 3 science very little of the curriculum relates to climate education. Incredibly, the last major update to the national geography curriculum for England in 2013 saw the then education secretary, Michael Gove, attempt to drop climate change.

    In essence, the causes and effects of the climate crisis are now taught in most secondary schools. What’s not being taught are the practical skills needed to transition towards a net zero lifestyle. Climate change isn’t tangible – young students lack the frame of reference to care if daffodils flower earlier every year or each summer is hotter than the last.

    So what needs to change? We need a green curriculum that starts in early years and extends through all key stages. Properly taught, climate change education should be a thread through all subjects – not just science and geography – from the food miles of the ingredients we cook in food technology to debates on humanitarian issues such as mass migration in religious education or personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education….

    …Earlier this year, the climate education campaign group Teach the Future reported that seven in 10 UK teachers say they have not received adequate training to educate their students on the climate crisis.

    In terms of sustainability, the Scottish “curriculum for excellence” is far ahead of England’s. It aims for every school to develop a coherent ethos that impacts on their culture, curriculum and campus, and connects them fully to their wider communities. The new Welsh curriculum, to be introduced in September 2022, allows for more leeway to focus on environmental education and calls for pupils to “show their commitment to the sustainability of the planet”.

    Fortunately, there is a huge wealth of resources available for teachers, from the Royal Society, British Council and the WWF to name a few. For teachers who have seen the recent headlines and want to deliver climate education, it can seem bamboozling, and this is where the Department for Education (DfE) and a strong national curriculum could help….”

    “Meryl Batchelder is a science teacher at Corbridge middle school, Northumberland, and a UN accredited climate change teacher”

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  8. Gosh! There is such a thing as a “UN accredited climate change teacher”. Well I never. Perhaps I could have applied to be UN discredited climate change teacher at UEA.

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  9. Mark: Thanks for that further link. Two young people who are very precious to me are involved in education in the Tyneside area. And Meryl Batchelder isn’t all bad, by any means:

    At about the same time, Meryl discovered the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG’s are an internationally agreed set of 17 objectives which act as a holistic blueprint for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet. She exclaims, “This is what we SHOULD be teaching!” The goals are organised into themes such as water, energy, climate, oceans, transport, etc. Her eureka moment came when she realised that she could use the SDG’s as the foundation of her Key Stage 3 science teaching. “For example, I give a practical lesson where we burn kerosene and bioethanol to compare their energy content,” she says. “Now, I introduce ideas about air quality and renewable energy, and because some people in the developing world use kerosene for cooking and lighting, the lesson is also about tackling poverty.”

    My bold. At least there’s an acknowledgement here of the massive tradeoffs on the ground in the developing world.

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  10. Richard, I don’t think that Meryl Batchelder is bad at all. I don’t think most of the people involved in climate alarmism are bad. I am sure they are well-meaning, with sincerely-held views. I merely wished to draw attention to the fact that there is now a push (misguided, in my opinion) to insert climate change into pretty much every aspect of the school curriculum – I fear this amounts to a determined attempt at brainwashing.

    I also thought it worthwhile drawing attention to the fact that there is such a thing as a UN accredited climate change teacher.

    Being aware of the poverty issue is a good thing, but I’m not sure that there is any joined-up thinking, given that inevitably opposition to fossil fuel use around the world will increase poverty in the poorest countries.

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  11. Mark: But how many other emission reduction activists mention this tradeoff for the very poor? For the sake of simplicity my model was:

    1. Mention it and you’re not all bad
    2. Fail to mention it and you are all bad

    where ‘all bad’ is about the effects of your doctrine, not your motivation, which has to remain unknown. So I’m saying something strong in Ms Batchelder’s favour here. Her pessimism ties in with this I think, in ways I may come back to

    The UN accreditation is new to me as well. Thanks for alerting us to it. But how much does it really mean? And how are we going to do anything about all these things? Speak the truth has to be step one.

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  12. Richard, point taken.

    By the by, I just re-read this:

    “Climate change isn’t tangible – young students lack the frame of reference to care if daffodils flower earlier every year or each summer is hotter than the last.”

    I have a sufficient frame of reference to know that daffodils flowered here later this year than any year I can remember in the last 50, and I’m pretty confident that each summer here has not been hotter than the last. I was amused yesterday to listen to the weather forecast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday lunchtime, saying that August so far has seen temperatures “about average”. That, I’m pretty confident, was a euphemism for cooler than average. It certainly has been a pretty cool August here so far. Above 2,000′ on the hills in the Scottish borders earlier this week it felt more like an October hill-bagging trip than an August one.

    So, is it education, or is it brainwashing?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mark: Agreed that Ms Batchelder’s Guardian article today is all bad by my recently stated definition, because it has no hint of the tradeoffs that make this subject genuinely difficult. Left like that it’s both a destructive doctrine to teach to kids and a totally simplistic one. Bad education in every sense.

    However:

    young students lack the frame of reference to care …

    For teachers who have seen the recent headlines and want to deliver climate education, it can seem bamboozling

    both contain hints of the current desperation of the activists. Bamboozled indeed. And finally:

    Almost four decades on from when I first heard about climate change, I fear my generation has missed its chance to avert doom. But the stark realities of the “inevitable”, “unprecedented” and “irreversible” crisis on the horizon mean the 15-year-olds of today cannot afford to be ignorant.

    But if “my generation has missed its chance to avert doom” doesn’t that mean it’s all over for the 15-year-olds of today? But what exactly does doom mean? That all English 15-year-olds are going to die in 2050? This needs to be spelled out exactly.

    I have no idea how seriously today’s 15-year-olds take this rubbish but something tells me that teenagers don’t always go the way adults want them to. And there are gaping contradictions throughout that merit their standard derision.

    Like

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