Experiencing nature is being increasingly recognised as a critical element of young people’s time at school. The organisations which make up the Sustainable Schools Alliance are motivated by this positive direction and believe it needs to be tied into fostering an understanding and respect for broader but interconnected sustainability issues.
The SSA first met in October 2016 to discuss the scope of producing a new doorway on Nature and Biodiversity for the Sustainable Schools Framework. Members had noted that although wildlife and nature come under the ‘biodiversity cross-cutting theme’ they could easily be overlooked within the current framework which doesn’t offer teachers clear routes into exploring those subjects.
The fifteen SSA members are bringing their varied expertise to this collaborative piece of work for the first time, with RSPB, OASES North East and SEEd taking on particular roles. It was quickly clear that this new doorway is an opportunity to give the framework format a makeover. If this one is successful the SSA are keen review other doorways; their relevance, how to update and present them in a teacher-friendly manner.
It was exciting to recently reach the stage of holding a workshop and consultation which allowed teachers and educators to trail and feedback on the proposed new design. Read more about that here in a SEEd blog post by Ann Finlayson. The event was supported by many SSA members including Centre for Alternative Technologies, Association for Science Education and North Yorkshire County Council as well as many SEEd members and school teachers.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) which most clearly relate to nature and biodiversity were identified. This generated insightful discussion how they are being taught and acted upon, or not, in UK schools and therefore whether a Sustainable Schools Framework should be linked to SDG’s?
Important conversations were held around not just how nature and biodiversity is highlighted yet embedded into learning but about how it can be monitored and seen as integral across the three C’s of curriculum, campus and community. SSA member Bluewave Education presented its online school improvement management software which could include a quality framework designed for SDG’s, or another set of aspects chosen to monitor this new doorway. The software allows schools to clearly see that making achievements in this framework also contributes to reaching targets and quality standards in other assessments and monitoring they must undertake.
The SSA members are looking forward to trailing this new doorway content and design with different groups over the coming months, taking on board feedback and officially launching it at the National Sustainable Schools Conference in October.