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Continuity during Covid: Environmental Education moves online

Peter Bell, schools carbon reduction officer at North Yorkshire County Council explains why their approach to the reduction of carbon emissions in schools has always been unique with their very own Superhero ‘Power Down Pete’ delivering a range of environmental activities and support in schools.

The service is not only about curriculum support and behaviour change.

Against a background of rising energy costs, the need for carbon reduction and environmental awareness is driving many aspects of the school curriculum.

In an era of councils declaring a climate emergency, this approach ultimately enhances the curriculum, raises attainment, reduces emissions and cuts energy costs.

However, the global pandemic threatened service continuity. With school closures and visitors to schools strictly controlled, it just simply wasn’t possible to only adjust a ‘business as usual’ model. A re-think was needed and not just for now but for the future.

It always seemed counter-intuitive with a rural county a similar size to Luxembourg, that one officer would drive to a site that could be over a 3 hour round trip in a van to teach children how to reduce emissions. Being seen to be reducing our own emissions was essential and we knew we’d need an innovative approach to engage schools in energy efficiency and support the environmental curriculum.

In March 2020 we started work on a new website as a place to deliver bespoke school activities. To further develop this content I had to polish my skills with the video camera. I would usually start a day in school running the morning assembly.

Now this is replaced with a downloadable video guiding the children through the different issues facing planet earth.

With a superhero backdrop in a spare room at home it was branded as Power Down Pete’s secret base.

This was followed by a website full of lesson content, online quizzes, story videos and teaching resources.

The site was quickly taken up by staff and students alike. It was even featured in the national Web User magazine who described the site as having ‘a friendly tone with plenty to enjoy’.

Since then the offer has expanded to include live online assembly via video link and virtual school tours to look at energy efficiency and low-cost efficiency actions.

These will be part of any future offers to school. We have also grown the site to link to other teaching sites delivering sets of environmental lessons in a similar way.

The energy and sustainability service team works hard to continually deliver high-quality service as environmental issues will take an increasingly important role in all our lives.

The aim of the service still remains to ensure schools:

-pay the best possible price for their energy and water,

-only pay for what they use and,

-only use what is absolutely necessary.

So we continue to adapt in an ongoing global pandemic, delivering what our customers want and supporting Energy efficiency through environmental education.

Click here to visit the website and here to watch a video about Power Down Pete

The energy and sustainability traded service sits under the traded service umbrella of NorthYorkshire Education services (NYES). To contact Peter, email energy.team@northyorks.gov.uk

Photo Credit – North Yorkshire County Council

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