This week on ZCBlog Sarah Everitt, a long-term volunteer at CAT, describes her work linking between different parts of the CAT team: Education, and Zero Carbon Britain.
Within the first week or so of settling in to the Zero Carbon Britain team I was finding out all about the progress of the research, the schedule for the report and the communications strategy and aims. Having a parent who works in education support I expressed an interest in how we would enthuse young people about ZCB and spread the message through schools. It then became apparent that a gap existed between the researchers who produce the ZCB report and the Education department who inform young visitors and schools about the work that CAT does. Therefore, it was suggested that it would be useful to have someone who could provide a link between the two departments, and I was glad to be appointed the responsibility.
The benefits of creating such a link were obvious, in that Education could tell me what they want or need from ZCB to best convey what ZCB is all about – whether it be to better understand what the scenario portrays and advocates, the science behind it, possible resources and ways to communicate the scenario, or specific information needed to put together accurate and informative ZCB activities.
From the beginning of this project, it’s been clear to me that CAT’s Education team has a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity about ZCB and its importance to society. Deirdre, Ann and Christine have all been working at CAT for over ten years and are lovely people to work with. They already give presentations and a workshop on ZCB, and have a great deal of insight into the key details they would like to put across, their target audience and how their audience may question things.
In the workshop, several types of activities are based around a giant map of Britain. The students can interact with the map and use it to present what they would do towards a ZCB and where. Looking at these existing materials, we compiled a long list of requests for scientific notes, updated information, clearer graphs and diagrams and updated resources. There were also a few questions about the ZCB scenario that they had received from audiences, which I could then enquire about with the appropriate ZCB researcher.
They were very happy to have someone to whom they can direct their questions, and who has more time to help tweak technical and visual details of presentations and resources.
So far I have enjoyed adding notes to their presentations and adding new slides, and as the report is finalised I will continue to update their ZCB presentations. I have found it really interesting to see all the work and enthusiasm that goes into producing the Educational material. Also, in the process I have learnt a lot more about climate science and policy, and the ins and outs of the ZCB scenario.
For example, I have learnt about how the build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be explained as the carbon ‘bathtub’ effect. It is like a tub filling with water, where more water flows from the faucet than the drain can take away. And, as the global temperature increases, the size of the drain decreases as current stores of carbon either cannot take in enough to match the rate of emissions or the stores themselves begin to degrade and release carbon. This perpetuates the cycle and increases the rate of temperature change. The ‘bathtub’ effect essentially explains the runaway rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations – and with humans pumping vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, the current CO2 level is higher than it’s been in at least 800,000 years (NRC, 2010*).
I am looking forward to creating and updating some engaging resources and activity sheets to complement Education’s existing resources and presentations. An example of a type of resource used is maps of wind speed and water depth off UK coasts, with a brief info sheet explaining offshore wind turbines. Using this, high school pupils are asked where they would place offshore wind turbines and how many. This gives an idea of the research behind the scenario. I will create a more accessible map key and put together a more up to date and visually appealing info sheet.
It is great that in the future there will be more opportunities to create educational resources alongside the updated report. I hope that there can always be a person there from ZCB whom can give time to work together with education, and provide them with ZCB information and resource material. An idea for a future resource could be a snazzy, child friendly, information and activity pack provided alongside a presentation or workshop. Pupils could then take home the ZCB vision of the future and perhaps act on or ponder it, or perhaps even just leave in a drawer and rediscover it a few years later – a spark of curiosity reignited. Some will want to find out more about what is happening towards ZCB now, or maybe discuss ZCB with their parents and decide on some things they can do together as a family to help achieve a zero carbon Britain.
I would like to help develop a workshop package that could be sent out to schools, including a whole host of activity ideas and resources that the school could base a non-curriculum day around (perhaps even a ‘A ZCB Future’ day). In this way ZCB could be communicated more widely across the UK, even to schools that haven’t yet heard of or visited CAT. There is great potential for creating this from what education already work with. I look forward to discussing it further with them, and hopefully to begin creating the package alongside CAT’s enthusiastic Education team.
Are you a student, teacher or someone else interested in learning more about CAT’s educational resources on Zero Carbon Britain – or in helping to develop new resources? Contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions!
*National Research Council (USA) (2010), Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change.