CAT Education Officer, Ann MacGarry, reflects on her recent experience of teaching a group of 17 year olds from Italy.
I recently had a very satisfying week teaching a lovely group of 15 seventeen year olds from Italy who came as part of a European project. They were both easy going and really interested in the activities.
I’d done a bit of research into energy potential in Italy and renewable energy use across Europe so they had some appropriate data to use, particularly when it came to doing the Zero Carbon Futures session. I’d got hold of a map of Italy and they populated it with skilful modelling with plasticine and intelligent use of the models I have collected over the years. There was a tidal stream device between Sicily and the mainland, geothermal by Mount Vesuvius, solar systems in various places and wind farms in the appropriate windy areas. There were also more trees and the only vehicles were a bike, bus, train, tractors and emergency vehicles. They also had local foods in the appropriate places. This was really interesting as I’m sure that if you asked a group of seventeen year olds from Britain to locate local foods on a map of Britain, they’d be scratching their heads.
This reflects both what has happened to traditional foods in Britain and also our knowledge of it.
They also explored the impact of the stuff we buy through using our Where’s the Impact? cards, used the new version of Energy Trumps to learn all about energy sources, did our Water footprint activity, collaborated to see how to reduce carbon footprints with The Green House and put huge enthusiasm into designing and building wind turbine models. We also managed to fit in a walk up the hill to the reservoir, quarry and wind turbines and they were the only group I have ever seen do our Hooded Adventure with no-one cheating by peeping.
Working alongside the CAT’s Education Team, Holly Owen is the latest artist in residence at the centre. Through her often-sculptural artistic practice she will be responding to the sustainable themes that are central to CAT’s core mission and using creatively inclusive ways to engage children and young people in art and sustainability. She is keen to explore the multi-skills and disciplines across the centre to inform her environmental and community led practice. Alongside artworks made at CAT Holly will be keeping a blog of her experiences as artist in residence on her website.
In her work Holly’s uses earth-bound materials to immerse audiences in a world where nature and art collide. Through the sharing of traditional craft, scientific knowledge, experiences and stories she invites others to reflect upon and reconnect with the environmental and human world around us.
As one half of a collaborative duo she recently embarked on an artistic expedition to the Arctic Circle. Using un-intrusive sculpture, binaural sound technology and film the project invited local people to talk about life in one of the worlds most severe and endangered environments. The film produced in the Arctic will be shown at ArtCOP21, the arts and culture festival that will run in conjunction with the UN Climate Conferences in Paris in winter 2015.
The site-specific nature of Holly’s work has enabled her to work and show both nationally and internationally. She spent a year as an artist in residence at Buckfast Abbey honey farm in Devon and holds a Masters in Art and Science from Central St Martins, London. Most recently has been working as one of five artists on Plymouth University’s Artists Access to Art Colleges programme.
The Face your Elephant project is a partnership between CAT, Woodcraft Folk (a youth organisation that empowers young people and are strong on sustainability issues) and de Montfort University. The title was created by young people some years ago, after seeing CAT’s Carbon Gym, where they were introduced to the idea that our carbon emissions weighed the same as two large elephants (now three). The project goes to festivals with a marquee with activities and a group of young people who educate people about climate change and sustainable futures. The current group are particularly keen and creative. They really liked our Zero Carbon visioning workshops so they’ve been using that as a focus for discussion with festival goers of all ages.
It means that Deirdre and Ann are sometimes obliged to go to festivals like Latitude to support the young people. Not only is it great going to the festivals, it is also extremely satisfying to see them developing new communication skills and often surprising themselves by what they are able to achieve.
So, if you are going to Latitude this year, look out for us. We wont be in the central area but usually somewhere on the way towards it.
Pupils at Llangynfelyn Primary School have been on a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) as part of activities going on nationwide for British Science Week. During the visit they had a tour of the centre and took part in a wind power workshop, in which they designed and tested model wind turbines.
The trip was organised by the school for pupils from years three to six. Miss Cerys, a teaching assistant who accompanied the group alongside class teacher Miss Siwan, said:
“It has been a wonderful, out of the box, learning experience. I’ve learned about things I didn’t even think were possible, like using straw bales in walls. I have also been impressed by how much the children already knew, and it has given them a chance to express that too.”
Toni, a year six pupil said the day had been a lot of fun:
“I like how everyone has worked together. I like how we got to make our own wind turbine because it teaches you how energy works. I have also learned about solar energy and hydro energy. I think it would be good for people to look out and see their energy being produced.”
Ben and Harvey, also in year six, said:
“It has been fun and exciting and we have learned a lot about heating and buildings, and better ways to keep them warm. Doing things like this encourages you to do more science because it is fun and you do it with your friends.”
Gabi Ashton from the education department at CAT said:
“The focus of the trip was to give the children a hands-on experience of the sustainable technologies they’ve been learning about in the classroom. They were a wonderful group to have here up here as they seemed to really engage with with CAT’s practical approach to learning and enjoyed the challenge of using science in a constructive way to solve problems”
Other schools wishing to visit the centre for tours, workshops and activities should contact the Education Department on 01654 705983 or email: email@example.com. CAT will also be open from Monday and throughout the Easter holidays with daily children’s activities.
Great opportunity for subsidised visits for KS 3, 4 and 5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) groups in Wales
Schools from North Wales
Until July 2015 schools from North Wales can book a STEM visit to CAT with a bursary towards travel, tuition and entry. Priority will be given to schools in Communities first areas. This bursary may be repeated Sept 2015- July 2016. Funded by Thomas Howell’s Education Fund for North Wales
This offer is on a first come first served basis. Do get in touch as soon as possible.
Yesterday the REBE (Renewable Energy and the Built Environment) students were taken to visit Mynydd Gorddu Wind Farm located near Tal-y-bont, Ceredigion, West Wales and given a tour by the site manager. As a media volunteer I get to document all the interesting excursions students make, and so I thanked the weather gods for a sunny day, pulled on my long johns and packed my camera. After bumpy ride down narrow roads on the local coach, we arrived and were greeted by the sites operational manager, a sharp man in his forties. With the sun on our backs, we huddled round like penguins as he explain how this wind farm, which has been successfully running for nearly 20 years was started.
Developed initially by Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig in 1997 – a company owned by a local family, Dr Dafydd Huws and Mrs Rhian Huws, npower renewables was involved in the early stages but in 1993 ceased to be involved with the project. Beaufort wind Limited are listed as the owner now, RWE Innogy as the operator. Dr Dafydd Huws had been inspired by the turbines at CAT and later through visits to Denmark where the technology has been developed further. In 1997 however, npower renewables agreed to assume responsibility for the financing and construction of the wind farm. Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig became a co-operative venture between npower renewables, now called RWE Innogy and the Huws family company, Amgen, the welsh for “positive change”. Dr Huws and his company Amgen continue to have, a leading role in the development of the wind farm and its operation.
By all accounts this wind farm was remarkably successful, with a good track record of fulfilling its potential, but like all machines they do need maintenance.It was interesting to hear direct from the horses mouth what its like to manage a site such as this, what kind of decisions you have to make when lightening strikes and melts the conductors. Calling crane companies and having to pay them double so they can come lift off the hub and propellers the next day, and get the turbine back in action as quick as possible. These kind of quick financial calculations, mixed in with practical monitoring and maintenance are all part of a days work for a wind farm operational site manager.
The site was awarded European grant of £1.3m to trial four different types of turbine but today there stands 19 turbines, with two different diameters, as the planning authorities weren’t so happy with the idea of too many different machines scattered across the hills. The planners also ensured that the sub-station, where the electricity is sent into the grid and where the turbines are monitored (with P.C’s STILL running from 1995, a little fact to amaze the techo- heads) is built in a true vernacular style, with stone walls, wooden doors and iron detailing.
If you are interested in the performance of these medium sized wind turbines then you may be interested in the following; 7 of the turbines are each rated at 600 kilo Watts with a hub height of 34 metres and a rotor diameter of 43m. The other 12 are rated at 500kW each with a hub height of 35m and rotor diameter of 41m. The rotors on both turbine sizes turn at an approximate speed of 30 revolutions per minute (rpm), driving a gearbox within the nacelle which is in turn connected to a generator. The turbines start to generate electricity automatically when the wind speed reaches around 11 miles per hour (mph), and achieve maximum output at around 33 mph. They shut down when the wind speed exceeds 56 mph, which is rare. The farm has a combined maximum output of 10.2 megawatts.
I have no pretentions of being an engineer, and so many of these technical details the REBE students were avidly scribbling down passed me by and I tuned into the gentle sound of the blades swooshing above me in the cold winter wind and their majestic white silhouettes cutting into the crisp blue sky, a symbol to me of beauty and hope. I was also noticing the red kites sailing high in the sky, the fresh strong blast of cold wind whipping around my ears and noticed a suprising birds nest above one of the windmills doors at the base.
I am interested in the politics and people behind these endeavours and was intrigued to hear how carefully Dr Dafydd Huws tried to maximize the returns to the community by ensuring the windfarm infrastructure spread across more than one owners land. There is a fund, “Cronfa Eleri” that’s administered by Amgen, who have set up the Cronfra Eleri Advisory Committee, ensuring that people who understand the needs of the community decide how the money is spent to provide the widest community benefit. The fund yields about £10,00 a year and in 2011 the fund helped buy a new heating system for a community centre in Ysgoldy Bethlehem, Llandre, a new shed for the local Talybont nursery, the re-wiring and renovation of the local church in Bontgoch, and towards a new tennis court in conjunction with the Playingfield Society Rhydypennau.
As we wandered back to the coach, we waved good-bye to the beautiful bullocks, (the wind farm was fully integrated with the traditional farming practices of the area, with sheep and cows grazing beneath the turbines) and all looked forward to a delicious lunch awaiting us at CAT. The electricity from the farm traced our steps, passing along a cables supported by wooden poles from Bow street to Machynlleth, carrying clean electricity to the local electricity grid network for use in local homes, schools and businesses. All in all it had been a very successful trip, but lets see what Alexandra King, a REBE student who came too had to say;
Who are you and what do you do when your not studying at CAT?
“I’m Alexandra King. I live and work in Bath. My husband is a consulting engineer, I work with him, mainly as a support at the moment, but hope that after finishing this course, I will be more involved in the engineering design.”
Why did you decide to study at CAT?
“CAT is the obvious choice – to my knowledge it is the best place in the country to study renewables. Why? For a long time now I was a mecologist by choice. I believe in sustainable lifestyle. We’ve installed PVs on our roof as soon as we had a chance. Renewable energy is clean and available everywhere, even in the most remote locations. It will not run out anytime soon, unlike fossil fuels. And if we start making changes now, by the time we do run out of coal and gas, we should have good enough infrastructure to keep us going. I don’t know if we could slow down the climate change, but there is always hope.”
What did you learn from the trip to the windfarm?
“I’ve always liked wind turbines, and this visit just reinforced this affection. They are so elegant and not at all noisy. The footprint of a turbine is very small. I love the possibility of the double use of land (cattle or crops), turbines scale easily, the construction time is relatively short, unfortunately so is the lifespan of a wind farm. But I am sure we can overcome this in the future.
One more thing, I’ve visited several wind farms and yet to see a single dead bird, yet, driving home a few days ago, saw 8 corpses on the motorway… one of them was a badger, I think, but still.”
How do you find the teaching on the course, and is there anything you would change about your student experience with CAT?
“I love CAT, wouldn’t change a thing. Except I wish I’d started earlier, like several years ago, but never mind now. I think this course is well balanced; it will give me a broad understanding of principles and technologies that will be very useful in my future work.”
Paul Allen, who heads CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project, is in Girona Province talking about the possibility of Zero Carbon Catalonia.
From almost every balcony, rooftop or garden, flags have been flying the hopes and dreams of their owners, for the 9th of November is decision day for Catalonia. In many ways the decision of the central Spanish Government to refuse an official referendum on independence for Catalonia has deepened their resolve to press ahead, albeit with a less official status. For many there is a clear link between energy independence and political independence for Catalonia, hence an enthusiasm for hearing about the Zero Carbon Britain research.
Girona Province has a long tradition of cooperatives and energy projects. Every year the Girona Province regional government supports a day-long education programme for all environmental educators in the area to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area, and this year the topic was energy. The key aims of the event were as follows:
To provide environmental educators with practical tools and concrete ideas needed for energy education activities.
To encourage and support more environmental educators to offer activities on energy education.
To exchange ideas and best practices.
At La Fábrica de Celrá, the newly refurbished industrial heritage building which would host the event, the final panes of glass were being fixed in place as we arrived. This 19th century dye and pigment factory, with its vast chimneys and castellated roofline, was an icon of the fossil-fuelled industrial revolution and offered an ideal backdrop for the ‘Extraordinary Story of Human Beings and Energy’ I use as a scene-setter for the Zero Carbon Britain scenario, which was to open the conference proceedings. This was followed by a series of presentations exploring practical projects active in the Girona area, from improving the energy efficiency of sports facilities to arranging ‘Green Drinks’ sessions to bring people together in any particular locality. The emphasis then shifted to practical workshops designed to give educators new skills in addressing four key target groups:
Kids and youngsters
Municipal Councils, employees, buildings and facilities
Citizens (in general)
Private companies (both employees and customers).
I had been given client group B, and a clear steer to be very practical, giving examples, showing specific tools and practices, etc. This allowed me to draw on my work around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill in Wales and the ‘Wales We Want’ national conversation to devise a workshop that could share the practical experience I have gathered as a Climate Commissioner for Wales in engaging local councils. The initial part of the workshop offered space for smaller groups to gain both the tools and confidence to envision a positive future, followed by a session exploring how the municipal decision-making in their areas could be enhanced to consider the wellbeing of future generations in the choices they make today.
It was a fascinating gathering, provoking many interesting questions and conversations. There is clearly strong enthusiasm to re-think the energy future in Catalonia, and an increasing desire to establish a physical site like at CAT.
My old friend Josep Puig Boix has been a long-time motivator behind ‘Ecoserveis’, the educational charity running the event, and is now spending a happy retirement getting the area’s first fully community-owned large wind project up and running. Wind is by no means new to the area, but Josep is devising this project in such a way as to make the process behind its development accessible to all. The costs for large wind power projects have now come down so much that it is viable with no subsidies at all, so it could be replicated anywhere. In addition Josep has been part of a group that are just publishing an economic analysis of the energy costs of running both Catalonia and Spain on both business as usual and a high renewables transition. The initial figures I saw make a clear case that – even with conventional economic analysis – the switch to renewables is a very good investment.
Although this was a long train journey, it felt like a very worthwhile trip: helping to support the vision for a Zero Carbon Catalonia, which has led to an invitation for a return visit to present at a 100% renewables conference in 2016, planned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl.
Throughout the October half term CAT will be running seasonally themed kids activities in the straw bale theatre ( 11am-3pm Monday to Friday). From celebrating the harvest and the coming winter to story telling, crazy inventing and our specially designed educational tours for children. For adults we will be running zero carbon Britain workshops and specialised tours of CAT. Check out the visit.cat.org.uk website for specific timings.
The restaurant will be serving warming, delicious and nutritious food, we hope you will come and join us
With over 7 acres of hands-on displays and gardens and with 40 years of experience in sustainability practice, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) inspires thousands of visitors every year. Based in beautiful Mid Wales, the Centre overlooks the Snowdonia National Park, renowned for its stunning scenery and outdoor activities. Join us with your family, friends or come alone and explore what you can do!
This summer there are loads of special activities going on throughout the half term school holidays. There is bound to be something you love, perhaps you want to:
CAT is delighted to welcome Jane Fisher and Tom Barker to the new post of Head of Education in a job share role. The role will involve development of new business opportunities in education and strategic oversight and support for our educational departments.
Jane and Tom will be taking up their post on 14th October. Jane has worked as a lecturer and BSc programme leader in ecology and conservation and has substantial experience as a research ecologist in addition to her voluntary work for environmental campaigning groups. Tom is currently a lecturer on CAT’s MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation and will continue with some of his hours in this role. He previously worked as a lecturer and researcher for Liverpool University and brings significant research experience including in the field of ecology and economics. Tom is a long-term supporter of CAT and worked as our membership co-ordinator in the early 1990s.
Jane and Tom have worked closely together in academic research over a number of years. Mick Taylor, Chair of Trustees, said: “I’m really pleased to appoint Tom and Jane as Head of Education. They bring a real commitment to CAT’s ethos and a strong track record in teaching, research and educational development. I know that their skills, experience and collaborative working style will enable them to bring strong leadership to our vital educational work at CAT.”
Education for sustainable energy – free teacher training
28 October 2014 at the Centre for Alternative Technology (with an option to stay overnight 27th to 29th).
“Excellent day! Lots of ideas to take away” Ysgol Tywyn June 20th 2014
Get activity ideas for bringing global issues into the classroom on a free one day course. Aimed at teachers and trainees at secondary level, the course focuses on energy and sustainable futures. It is mainly delivered through interactive activities, backed up with well researched information.
The one-day course is free and includes lunch and supper, thanks to support from the European Greenet project. To book your place email Deirdre Raffan: education @cat .org.uk. This can be extended for an additional half day on the 29th (see below).
Free course content
“Nice setting, knowledgeable staff, good ideas for activities” Teacher from Wales June 20th 2014
“A very enjoyable day with good useful ideas” Shrewsbury Sixth form college June 20th 2014
Subsidised overnight B+B accommodation is available before and after the training (27th and 28th October) at the rate of £20 per night including breakfast. Accommodation is in our Eco Cabins. You could also bring a friend, they can explore CAT and the area and just pay for their accommodation.
An extension to the course is available the following morning (Wednesday 29th October) for £30. In this additional time you will explore:
Food and land use
STEM teachers in Welsh secondary schools may be able to get a bursary – please contact us.