Pupils learning the human cost of climate change

Pupils at St Leonards School in St Andrews have been helping to humanise the cost of climate change.

In recent years, the issue of climate change has become more of an issue, with the combined voice of school pupils and university students especially helping to rocket the issue to the top of the agenda.

One of the latest initiatives to emerge has done so in the form of an innovative, National Geographic-funded project, founded within the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. This is the Third Generation Project.

Spearheaded by Professor Ali Watson OBE, an expert in international relations at the university, and executive director and St Andrews PhD student Bennett Collins, along with Ethiopian career human rights advocate Nyikaw Ochalla, documentarians Alice Rowsome and Sam Wolson, and journalist Yahye Xanas, from Somaliland, the project aims to bring collaborative story production into Scottish classrooms in order to help humanise the human costs of climate change.

St Leonards, a leading coeducational boarding and day IB World School, was amongst the first Scottish schools to come on board, inspired by a group of Year 12 and 13 pupils who, earlier in 2019, decided to host a TED Talk-style event on climate change at the local theatre for the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) element of the IB Diploma.

Together, St Leonards Sixth Form students Johanna Woitke, Peter Matthews, Kathryn Matthews and Sreeridhi Yemireddy, planned and organised the free, ticketed event, called Climate Change: The Burning Question, with speakers including Professor Watson and Bennett Collins.

For Watson and Collins, the ‘burning question’ was about the impact of climate change on people living in the Horn of Africa.

This was a CAS project with a difference, which has continued to have a lasting impact.
Following the event in June, the team behind The Third Generation Project visited St Leonards to deliver a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) lesson to Year 12 students on how we perceive migrants and the causes of migration. And so, the connection was made.

Ben Seymour, IB Diploma Coordinator at St Leonards School, said: ‘Since then, we have been working with Ali, Bennett and the team to deliver a six-week series of
workshops to our Sixth Form students, bringing together journalists, human rights activists, academics and pupils to talk about the human costs of climate changes.

‘Each week, our students have welcomed guest speakers, heard from inspiring voices and investigated the ways in which this story can be told through digital media. The project as a whole aligns perfectly with the IB approach to learning.’

Week one was a meeting with Nyikaw Ochalla, a member of the Anuak community from Gambella, who spoke about Ethiopia and the changes that have affected the country, causing the Anuak people to be spread far and wide. A Skype call with Yahye Xanas, founder of SOM-ACT, an organisation made up of journalists dedicated to reporting on human rights issues in Somaliland, followed.

Further sessions have covered documentary making and storytelling in digital media, including the ethics of telling a story in the media, which have prepared pupils for the task at hand.

Using camera footage from visits to refugee and internally displaced persons camps, photographs, interviews, transcripts and digital footage, the St Leonards pupils will produce their own digital stories to show how climate change affects everything from migration to food prices and disaster protection.

Bennett Collins said: ‘Our project seeks not only to document stories of human migration in the era of human-caused climate change, but to also raise awareness around how these stories can be told responsibly as well as irresponsibly.

‘Humanising climate migration is one of the most important things we can teach younger generations right now.

‘We have been delighted to work with the pupils at St Leonards who, for the past six weeks, have given up their free time to learn about the impact that climate change is already having on the communities that this project focuses on.’

By spring 2020, the digital stories will be complete, having been approved for accurate and respectful representation of those who have shared their experiences for the project, and will be displayed in an exhibition hosted by the Third Generation Project, with the potential to be chosen as educational resources for SOM-ACT and ASO.

For the St Leonards students involved, this will mean showcasing their work at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews in the spring term for friends, family and members of the public to see, and to learn from.

Ben Seymour, IB Coordinator at St Leonards, added: ‘This project is well summed up by the aim of all IB programmes. It has encouraged our students to develop international-mindedness, to recognise their common humanity and their shared guardianship of the planet. I hope it will give them the motivation to help create a better and more peaceful world.’