University of Exeter hosts schools environment conference in Cornwall

More than 160 secondary school pupils from around the county have attended a schools environment conference at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus yesterday (Tuesday), in association with Cornwall Secondary Schools.

The event, organised jointly by the senior team at Richard Lander School, the University of Exeter and Tessa Kingsley representing the local community, is thought to be the first of its kind and aimed to provide pupils with the scientific knowledge from climate change experts at the University, as well as help them develop an action plan to use within their respective schools.

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The timing of the conference comes in the wake of the University of Exeter declaring an environment and climate emergency in May, and secondary schools signing up to the Green Charter for schools in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Professor Juliet Osborne, Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute, who is leading a University working group to create a plan of action in response to the environment and climate emergency, opened the conference by outlining the aims of the day and introducing short speeches from five students from different levels of education.

These were Rafi Maurice from Penryn Primary School; Ella Davey and Tamani Beare from Humphry Davy School; Bella Roberts from Truro College and University of Exeter MEng Renewable Energy undergraduate Francis Eagle.

Exchange students visiting from Woodstock Day School, New York, provided an international perspective.

The speakers and audience discussed what for them are the three main climate issues that we need to address immediately.

The main presentation was jointly delivered by Stephan Harrison, Professor of Climate & Environmental Change at the University of Exeter, and Manda Brookman from Café Disruptif.

In a tried and tested collaboration, Stephan presented the scientific facts around climate change, whilst Manda shared the campaigner’s viewpoint and how we can make a difference.

The afternoon’s activities included hands-on learning via workshops delivered by academics, on topics including Renewable Energy, Textiles, Climate Justice and Food Security.

Pupils also participated in a panel discussion with Stephan Harrison; Manda Brookman; Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods at Cornwall Council, and Janine Bisson, STEM – Project Co-ordinator Education Business Partner at Cornwall Council.

The pupils worked in groups to consider how they would go about ensuring implementation of the Green Charter within their schools.

Ruth Grimmer, from the University of Exeter, said: “We are very pleased to be hosting this event and to be providing the young people of Cornwall with the opportunity to hear about a range of views, including from our own academics, and to have the space to question and reflect in order to form their own views on this vitally important topic.”

Steve Mulcahy, Head of Richard Lander School and one of the event organisers, said: “We are delighted to have the participation of so many schools in Cornwall to learn more about one of the world’s biggest problems and what they can actively do about it.”

Tim Osborne, Service Director for Education at Cornwall Council, delivered the closing presentation, summing up how pupils can support effective and lasting change within their schools and beyond.

He said: “This was an enlightening and enriching day for all involved and I’d like to thank the organisers and speakers for imparting their vast knowledge of this topic, to these students from 23 schools across Cornwall.

“We hope they will be inspired to put their learnings to good use.”