Effective ESD teaching and learning in an inner city primary school

Tags: biodiversity | teaching | Education for sustainable development | environment | WWF | children

Shacklewell is an inner London, two-form entry primary school, with approximately 450 children and over 40 teaching and non-teaching staff. The level of social deprivation and diversity of cultures within the local community is reflected in the school; for example, 20 mother tongues are spoken in the nursery and over 70 per cent of pupils throughout the school qualify for free school meals. 

The staff were keen to develop an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) project which would integrate core ESD issues (for example, waste minimisation, energy, water, transport, consumerism, biodiversity/nature conservation, development education, global citizenship) into relevant areas throughout the curriculum from Nursery to Y6. We also wanted to relate these issues to pupils’ daily lives and to the running of the school. WWF’s ‘Making it Happen’ scheme – which offered funding, training and consultancy to support schools in their ESD journeys – seemed to offer us a stepping stone.

Through an ESD approach to teaching and learning, we hoped to encourage critical and independent thinking, class and group discussions, democratic decision-making, and a sense of personal ‘sustainable responsibility’ among the school community. We also wanted to enable children to relate their newly developed knowledge and skills to local and global environmental issues – and to suggest solutions.

We felt it was important to follow learning with practical action, and we therefore planned to develop the school grounds into a pleasant environment in which children could socialise, play and learn, and which parents and the wider community could contribute to, use and enjoy. We also planned to provide areas within the grounds, managed by children, parents and staff, for nature conservation, the increase of local biodiversity and organic food growing. In this way we hoped to raise awareness of environmental issues and to influence the environmental attitudes and behaviours of children, parents and the wider community