Sheffield schools to discuss tackling climate emergency at new conference

Sheffield climate change campaigners are holding a three-day online conference aimed at the region’s schools.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:05 pm
Youth Climate Strike outside Sheffield Town Hall in February 2019

South Yorkshire Schools' Climate Conference takes place from July 5 to 7 and will look at people doing work in climate change, education and related fields. It is aimed at primary and secondary school students, as well as teachers and schools. It is free to sign up.

The event has been set up by Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire (SCESY), a voluntary group set up in the summer of 2019 to organise schools conferences in the South Yorkshire region around the climate emergency.

The conference welcome address will be made by Dame Sarah Storey, active travel commissioner for Sheffield City Region, who will be talking about the benefits of walking and cycling.

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Let’s Go Zero is a campaign that looks at how schools can work together to become zero carbon by 2030 and how students can become climate champions, advocating change at school and home.

Workshops and presentations cover a wide range of subjects, including how schools can go zero carbon, energy efficiency ideas, the Eco-Schools movement and how young people can take part in democracy through collective action and activism in a session led by Sheffield Youth Strike 4 Climate.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will show how to make school grounds wildlife-friendly and Amazelab will demonstrate how to make a wind turbine to help spark a conversation about how cities of the future could be powered.

More light-hearted sessions include vegetable theatre from Sheffield performer Madame Zucchini and a look at how whale poo is helping to fight climate change.

The February 2019 Youth Climate Strike outside Sheffield Town Hall

Former High Storrs School students Henry Firth and Ian Theasby from vegan food brand Bosh! will run a special cookery lesson, making meat-free spaghetti bolognese.

Most of the workshops take place during the school day, so that they can be watched in the classroom.

The final session is a panel discussion with Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley, energy specialist Neil Kitching, Hallam University lecturer and climate and sustainability specialist John Grant, Amanda Smith from the Centre for Alternative Technology and a school climate striker.

Participants can suggest the questions they would ask the world leaders at the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow in November and the panel will discuss them. An online vote will also take place.

A banner commenting on world leaders' responses to climate change at a Sheffield Town Hall protest timed to coincide with the G7 talks in Cornwall

One of the event organisers, retired primary school teacher and educationalist Richard Souter, said: “There’s quite a variety of different workshops. We’ve made really good connections with lots of organisations.”

SCESY is run by volunteers and they have had to raise the money to put on the conference as well as organise it.

Sheffield Climate Alliance is the major backer and it included the conference in a bid for lottery funding for climate action. Other supporters include Sheffield Trades Council and the NEU education union.Richard said that the conference was due to take place last year but got put on hold because of the pandemic. More than 40 schools have already signed up to take part.

School students getting their message across at the Youth Climate Strike outside Sheffield Town Hall in February 2019

He said: “In 2019 we were formed really from a recognition that school students were asking for adults to do more and for there to be more in their education about the climate emergency and the nature emergency.”

The idea is to continue with the project, holding annual conferences.

The group know that young people can be powerful advocates for change. Richard said: “If children and young students are going home with a message, asking for behaviour change or saying what could be done, drawing parents into their conversations, it is something that can embrace everyone.”

Part of the group’s mission is to enable schools to share what they have done and learn from different initiatives taking place now.

One example is Hunters Bar Primary, where students had concerns about air quality. Parents working with the school got in touch with the University of Sheffield which was able to advise on how to create a green screen to protect the playground from traffic fumes.

Both the Sheffield Diocese of the Church of England and the Bishop of Doncaster, Rt Rev Sophie Jelley, are supportive of the conference.

A climate change protest at Sheffield Town Hall, one of a series of protests around the country to mark the recent G7 meeting in Cornwall

For more information and registration, go to www.scesy.org.uk