Sunnyside Primary School — using their voice to get climate change on school curriculums.

“ Schools shouldn’t wait on legislation or guidance, we need to be proactive in ensuring that we all have the knowledge to bring about the slowing down of global warming.”

The ‘Ocean Defenders’ engaging politicians with their campaigns

The Children at Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow may only be small but they have a huge voice. They are passionate about protecting the environment and have turned that passion into action by petitioning both the Scottish government and Westminster to make climate change a part of teaching curriculums. Not only this, but the students at Sunnyside have also run successful campaigns such as #naestrawataw which lead to Glasgow city council banning the use of plastic straws in restaurants and school canteens.

It is these inspiring actions that resulted in the students being voted the winners of the Greenest School Award at 2020’s Green Heart Hero Awards.

We spoke to them to find out what advice they would give to other aspiring young activists, as well as to find out what projects they are working on at the moment.

Your school regularly petitions parliament to make climate change a priority. Do you have any petitions planned for the future?

“We have a few ongoing campaigns that we are working on, even through distance learning, where we are learning to write, film and edit our own videos for conferences we’ve been asked to participate in.

We have taken part in consultations locally about new fish farms near us, and on a national scale about bringing in bans on certain single use plastics through the Scottish Government consultation. It’s also important to acknowledge steps in the right direction too, so we’ve written to both the Scottish and UK Governments about things they have done which we were pleased to hear about.

We wrote to the Scottish Government to make Climate Change lessons ‘huftaes’ in Scottish schools — huftaes are what our teachers call the ‘have to do lessons’; they ‘huftae’ do them. But we’re not waiting on this happening and from next week we are engaging every one of our classes on a Climate Change programme of lessons that will last about 4 weeks. Schools shouldn’t wait on legislation or guidance, we need to be proactive in ensuring that we all have the knowledge to bring about the slowing down of global warming.”

Meeting Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

What further changes would you like to see in 2021 to protect our planet?

“During the first lockdown, we heard a lot about how nature became so important to everyone and we could see videos of nature claiming back spaces. But even in the short time between that lockdown and now, people forgot and were getting back into the old habits. We hear that everyone is keen to ‘get back to normal’. Well if by normal you mean still polluting the oceans, atmosphere, and not respecting nature, then we will have learned nothing from the last year. Education is key in addressing this. This is an opportunity to reset those old habits and make the new normal one that works for the whole planet and not just humans. If Covid has taught us anything it is that we need to get a better balance with nature in our lives.”

What advice would you give to other schools that want to be greener?

“Sometimes it is really tricky to think where to start. Our advice is to start at home and away! Climate Change is a big international concern, so making your pupils aware of things like #COP26 and engaging with groups such as The Climate Coalition can make the children feel they are part of something big…and that they are adding to the solution.

But we must also look at ourselves to change too. So conducting an audit of perhaps how much single use plastic you use or of how much energy you could save at school before starting a campaign to tackle one of these is a good place to start. Start simple…it will grow its own legs soon enough and you will be off and running. We look forward to you joining the race…because none of us can win it on our own.”

The pupils visiting other schools across Scotland to inspire other students and spread the word about their campaigns.

Do you know another inspiring school or youth project that are doing great things for the environment? Why not nominate them for this years Green Heart Hero awards?

Head to https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/green-heart-hero-award-nominations-2021 to submit your nomination.

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The Climate Coalition

The Climate Coalition

The Climate Coalition is the largest group of people in the UK dedicated to tackling climate change, with our sister orgs @SCCscot and @SCCCymru