How Green is our Valley?

PUBLISHED: 16:18 04 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:51 20 February 2013

Taunton School's GreenPower vehicle

Taunton School's GreenPower vehicle

Dr John H Newton discusses how best to educate pupils to be green in a way that changes young minds for the future benefit of the planet

Dr John H Newton discusses how best to educate pupils to be green in a way that changes young minds for the future benefit of the planet

Some years back, the Government introduced Citizenship as part of the school curriculum. The aim was to encourage young people to be more aware of their communities and to demonstrate greater civic responsibility.

In the summer of 2011, the cities of the land exploded in violence, vandalism and plunder. Another failed government education initiative.

So how do we as schools educate pupils to be green? Well, what we do not do is write a curriculum, set an exam or re-write the timetable.

I say to many, many visitors who come to Taunton School, that they are not so much coming into an institution as a village. Our school is a way of life. And as the famous and shrewd African saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child".

Initiatives in the school such as the garden project and switch it off week will change behaviour and not just coldly educate minds. The Prep School children are about to build a greenhouse out of plastic bottles and the recycling bins are everywhere.

And as our GreenPower vehicle a racing car that is built for endurance using non-fossil energy once more triumphs on its way to the national finals, I think of the superb environmental as well as engineering challenge that the project presents.

But example works just as well as information. For each school bus that brings children to school each day, there are 15 fewer cars on the road creating havoc and sending fumes into the sky.

But there is more, and there has to be more. Each summer a group of pupils head off to some of the most remote parts of the globe. Last summer, Peru and the Himalayas were on the agenda. The Prep School pupils have just returned from Gujarat province in India, where they have seen the impact industrialisation is having on their environment. And it all starts in the Pre-Prep. Here children enjoy their forest school; things natural are valued and understood rather than swept aside for the questionable joys that come through a screen.

These experiences bring home to our students not just how fortunate they are to live in a wealthy country, but also the impact our affluence is having on other countries around the globe. The call for greater responsibility comes back to the school loud and clear through formal presentations in assemblies and chapels as well as ad hoc conversations over lunch and in the corridors.

Changing hearts and minds and nurturing a sense of responsibility is not something that is easily delivered in government-led, classroom-housed, teacher-directed ways. The culture of a school is the key to nurturing a greater sense of the part one has to play in the world. Schools that open at 9am and close at 3pm have a much tougher task to do that than one that works six or seven days a week and is staffed by fine professionals who go beyond the curriculum, to set examples of how to live the good life.

Latest from the Somerset Life