Kids Action Through Science (KATS) Addresses Climate Change

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2021 Goldin Global Fellow

Educating Children on Climate Change through Experiment, Experience, and Appreciative Inquiry

From 31st October to Friday 12th November 2021, global leaders, climate change activists and scholars, and civil society organisations working to address some of the world’s most urgent environmental issues came together for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (or COP26). In line with addressing some of these global issues, the GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub at Newcastle University (an international and interdisciplinary collaborative hub working in Newcastle, Colombia, Ethiopia, India and Malaysia), was formed to improve water security for resilient futures. The hub has partners globally and aims to use our collective expertise and networks to deliver sustainable solutions to societal challenges.

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As part of the Hub’s educational initiative, a six-week pilot was launched (23rd April – 31st May) at the Corbridge Middle school to equip children on the issues associated with climate change and distinct themes associated with it. The initiative was co-led by myself, 2021 Global fellow Dr. Gopal Iyer, Professor Pauline Dixon and Elle Young PhD candidate from the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences.The themes comprised of global impacts of climate change. fast fashion, water conservation and pollution prevention, soil protection and preservation, effects of air pollution and understanding geospatial interventions through unmanned air vehicles. One of our core aims was to raise awareness and knowledge about the sustainable development goals, the impacts of climate change, and other topics being addressed at COP-26.

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In the first week the students focused on understanding how their actions impact and affect the people around the globe. The session helped them in building their own understanding of their values and encouraged them to get involved in playing their role towards local, national, and global communities.

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Fast fashion, and the wastage which emerges from it, was the theme of the second week. The session focused on the rapid growth of the fashion industry, which has led to increased emissions due to the consumption, production, and transportation of textiles. Children were given a hands-on task which comprised of making masks, friendship bands and app prototypes. The app prototypes encouraged them to think about resource efficiency by promoting responsible consumption and production.

The third week’s session concentrated on climate change, and its effect on water bodies around the globe. The session through an appreciative enquiry process assisted the students to learn about the cultural and social values associated with water. As a part of their hands-on activity, they measured the different parameters in water such as turbidity, pH and dissolved oxygen.

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In Week 4 the students learnt about soils and the investigation of different types of soils by examining their water holding capacity, pH and texture. The hands-on activity involved a lab set up with the relevant apparatus to test the soil properties. The students also got their hands dirty by building a carbon capture raised bed in the school.

Week 5 of the programme focused on the art of storytelling, how sharing personal stories can encourage people to think about climate change, and the ability of stories as a powerful emotional tool to help people recall and remember the message for a long period of time. As a part of the hands-on activity, the kids got out of their classroom and used the sensors and smartphones provided by ‘kids making sense’[JS2] to measure the particulate matter levels in and around their school.

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Week 6 focused on geospatial interventions, along with discussing the crucial nature of un-crewed air systems and the role that they play in detecting the changes taking place on the land and water bodies because of advent of climate change.

Owing to the success of the KATS programme, the North Tyneside council invited the team to implement the programme at Percy main primary school in Newcastle (UK) and Wallbottle school in the North East. The inaugural session of the KATS programme has been quite successful with children engaging themselves in understanding the global sustainable development goals, COP26 and terms associated with Citizen Science through games, activities and visual arts. Facilitators also informed the children about COP26, and its aim to bring the different stakeholders together to work towards achieving the SDGs. Over the next few weeks, the KATS team will continue to focus experiments, experience and apply Goldin’s philosophy of appreciative enquiry to foster learning and curiosity amongst the young minds.

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 Image credits:

· Flooded Cellar filming partners and Percy main primary

· Elle Young, Ph.D. candidate and session facilitator

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