Nelson Mandela said: “Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future”. The Living Coast is very much about investing in our future environment. To what extent do local children understand the importance of their local environment so that they can take action now and for the future? For the last six years the Brighton and Hove environmental education (BHee) programme has been tackling this very issue.
The BHee programme is led by Resource Futures in partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust and funded by Brighton and Hove City Council. It’s popular with local primary and secondary schools: 97% have got involved over the past six years. By asking schools what they wanted at the beginning of the programme, it has been able to meet their needs - which for some might be energy training for business managers, for others is helping children learn about the wonders of their local park and for others is teacher training, ideas and resources. Nearly 10,000 children have been involved in BHee workshops over the past six years, plus over 13,000 in assemblies and 640 in inter-school events!
BHee uses the national Eco-Schools programme, which is part of the organisation Keep Britain Tidy, to help schools progress and to celebrate achievements. As of August 2017 there are 11 schools in Brighton and Hove that currently have the prestigious Green Flag award, which is 13% of the schools registered for the award in this local education authority area. This is the best in the South East! (the next best being West Sussex at 8.5%)
St Luke's Primary school Eco-Team celebrating their Green Flag in 2015 (photo: Resource Futures)
The BHee programme makes the most of the diverse range of environments in The Living Coast. For example, Ovingdean Beach is a fantastic location to learn about the natural environment and the high-profile issues of marine litter. According to a teacher: “The children have really connected with their local 'natural space' of the beach and some have made several trips since with their families to share what they have learnt.”
What’s more, how great to get to the beach by pedal power on a ‘Bike to Nature’ day – as Benfield Primary, Middle Street Primary, Fairlight Primary and many more have done.
Bike to Nature day (photo: Ben Sherratt, Sustrans)
As well as supporting individual success, the BHee programme has made sure that the great ideas and good practice in our top schools is spread far and wide. The Big Lemon bus has helped with that – pupil Eco-Teams travelled to nearby schools on the environmentally friendly bus to meet their Eco-Team and for the pupils themselves to pass on their green expertise. This included the butterfly haven and impressive composting systems at Balfour Primary, water saving and the outdoor classroom at Goldstone Primary, tree planting and an energy saving campaign at Patcham Juniors. From an Eco-Coordinator: “[a pupil] said that ‘BHee has helped me understand some of the bigger stuff and also given us so many practical ideas on how to be more eco-friendly.’ I couldn't put it better myself. We’re already looking forward to the next one!”
Pupil conferences are another great way of bringing together best practice from across the city so that pupils can go back to their own schools newly inspired, full of ideas and confident to take action themselves. Patcham High and Cardinal Newman have both been excellent conference hosts.
In July 2017 70 pupils from six schools enjoyed BHee’s ‘The Living Coast’ day, which was the “Best school trip ever!” according to one pupil: “I was amazed by how many creatures lived in the long grass on the Downs and how many different plants and flowers there were” - not surprising perhaps, as they started at the wonderful Beacon Hill Nature Reserve by Rottingdean, which is home to the Beacon Hub sustainability education centre under development. They listened to the skylarks singing and made skylark kites which they flew down to the coast where they learnt about the fabulous marine environment. View the video of the day to share the schoolchildren’s experience!
Pupils flying skylark kites on The Living Coast day (photo: Rich Howorth, Biosphere programme manager)
Nelson Mandela also said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Through good quality environmental education, as provided with BHee, our local children have the best opportunities to do that well.
Education Manager – Resource Futures