Overview

The idea of the Carbon Reduction Challenge was to run a programme of school engagement devised by Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, centred around a competition promoting awareness of rail as a form of sustainable travel among primary school children. A key aim was to involve the wider community, not just the classes, by getting children to act as ambassadors at home and at school, hoping to change habits through ‘pester power’. The competition element helped to incentivise children to get adults involved.

Activity

A lesson learnt early on was to do with getting schools involved. The Partnership initially focussed on a new line (the Maritime Line) where they had done little work before and this proved difficult, showing how important relationships are when it comes to school projects. When the Partnership then contacted schools around the Looe and Tamar Valley lines, where they have worked extensively, schools signed up straight away.

Schools were invited to take part with an offer of a free taster trip on the train. Before this, each school had a visit from Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership’s development officer, who explained the project and played a specially commissioned video starring Coco the cat. This encouraged children to explore their area by train and encourage friends and family to do the same. The idea was to empower children immediately to become ambassadors for the project, and the response was positive: teachers were interested, and children enchanted by the animation.

The pilot had eight schools sign up to take part. The projects submitted to the competition ranged from posters warning of the dangers of climate change, video debates and question time sessions, to a rap. The winning school produced a book looking at greenhouse gasses and fossil fuels, sustainable transport and train travel. This school measured the CO2 savings made over a month of swapping car journeys for train journeys and the total was 1.2 tonnes, equivalent to driving from Cornwall to Scotland and back three times.

Impact

The project fulfilled its objectives with numerous schools involved, some great projects and a winning school that put a huge amount of time and effort into measuring their carbon data and their creative project.

The story on Facebook received 1,000 views, the Coco animation 520 views, and the story was covered in the Cornish Times. An unexpected result was the Partnership being invited to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) day by Cornwall Learning. This was for local teachers to meet with organisations that can help with teaching STEM subjects and has led to new contacts being made for future projects.

Most importantly, the children involved developed language, literacy, geography and science skills and awareness through exploring the global concepts of climate and carbon reduction. They have been given the opportunity to examine their values and attitudes and understand the global context of their local lives.

Teacher Veronica White, Duloe School, said “The children were fully engaged in the project and enjoyed completing the research, posters and collecting and analysing the data. We were able to use the project across several subject areas: maths, geography, PSHE and ICT. We are delighted to have won.”

Outcomes

The project fulfilled its objectives as we had a good number of schools involved, some great projects and a winning school that had put a huge amount of time and effort into measuring their carbon data and their creative project.

The news story put out on Facebook received over 1000 views; the Coco animation 520 views to date and the story was covered in the Cornish Times newspaper.

One of the unexpected results of the project was being invited to a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning day by Cornwall Learning due to the existence of the project.

This was a day for local teachers to meet with organisations that can help them with teaching STEM subjects and has resulted in a number of contacts for future projects with schools.

Ultimately the lasting benefits of the project will be on the children who have been involved though.
The children have developed their skills of persuasion and negotiation, key curriculum targets for language and literacy and through exploring the global concepts of climate and carbon reduction, the children have been given the opportunity to examine their own values and attitudes and understand the global context of their local lives.