01 Sep Climate warrior in Outdoor Learning
An article by Morten Freltoft Krogshold for ÅLF*
At Sabro-Korsvejskolen, a school, close to the city of Aarhus in Denmark, climate and sustainability are part of the teaching, and has been for some years. All because of a teacher, called Birthe Jason, who makes sure that both students and colleagues get climate and sustainability under the skin.
Wiser on nature
The silver foil and beeswax are places next to each other. The same is the plastic bag and the reusable shopping net. Birthe Jason is in the process of setting up a table of contrasts before the 3rd grades make their entry into the Hall at the school.
It’s Friday and the last day of students’ week with Birthe Jason. Today, the focus has been on nature, and most of the teaching and learning has taken place outdoors. Before the 63, three classes together of 9- and 10-year-olds pupils and Birthe starts today’s program, which includes a picking up garbage, Birthe refreshes just why it is we need to make an effort for the climate and what our small decisions in everyday life mean for the big whole.
With a picture of the globe and a thermometer that is red-hot, Birthe asks the children if they remember what the problem is for Earth. The question is quickly answered by a smaller children’s choir shouting: It’s sick. The image of the earth with a fever changes to a list of various materials and objects that humans leave in the wild. Next to each one is stated how long it takes nature to break it down. Some children have huge eyes as they are told that it takes well over 1,000,000 years to break down glasses and bottles, but Birthe quickly recognizes that it is a guess, because so far no people have grown that old.
While children’s brains are still trying to digest the size of a million years, the climate agenda is quickly brought down to earth again and close to everyday life. We look at the table with sustainable alternatives for everyday household.
“Tin foil. Mother’s best friend when cooking lunches. But aluminum it is actually something that we will soon run out of. Then there is no more left than we can recycle. It is much better for the Earth that we use something like this, ”explains Birthe as she takes a piece of cotton fabric treated with beeswax from the table.
Then a long-awaited guest enters the hall.
It is Spanish Aleix, whom Birthe knows from one the schools cooperation with a Spanish school from Barcelona. He is in Denmark to visit her and see how she brings sustainability into the teaching.
Garbage hunting in the school yard
Armed with a large rubbish bag in clear plastic and a gripper plier, the children are now ready to clean the scenery in and around the school. They work thoroughly and it is clear that the children have fun with the task. There is also competition in it for the kids, where nothing is too big or too small to be picked up, and there is the prestige of finding the biggest piece of garbage or filling up its bag as quickly as possible.
Two boys find a large piece of old metal from a gate. They grab Aleix for help in getting the malted door in the rubbish bin. The pride shines out of the eyes of the boys over their findings, but to their disappointment, they must realize that the bag will be too heavy if the door is to be in it. They therefore hand it over to the school caretaker before the hunt is resumed.
In their hunt for garbage, the children go on adventures, and there is not the corner of the school area that is not just searched for a piece of trash. After well over half an hour of collecting, it is time for a well-deserved rest.
Birthe, Aleix and myself move into the teacher’s room where I try to become clearer about how climate and sustainability have ended up so much in Birthe’s life.
Many small streams make a great stream
“It’s not something that just suddenly fell into me. For over three decades I have been a vegetarian and I have always tried to do my best for a better climate and a better world. But I also had a car so I could drive my kids to school”, she says with a smile framed by the chalk white hair that testifies that she has some years on the back.
At school, Birthe has hung several statements in poster format. Above the copier is a picture of a beautiful green forest with the text: “The trees are trying to save the world – help them.” The passion for climate and Birthe’s will is not to be mistaken, but she is not fanatical or indoctrinating. The aim of the teaching is trying to bring students across years closer to nature and to make them more aware of one of the world’s greatest challenges and possible solutions.
Waste sorting and nature reserve
Along the wall at an outdoor area of the school are teachers and caretakers have benne lined up in a row with their own bags. Batteries, glass, biodynamic, plastic, metal are some of the titles on the signs that the adults hold.
The mountain of garbage that students collected earlier in the day must now be sorted. There is speed across the field, and especially the bags which contains plastic is being filled at a rapid pace. Not everyone is equally keen on what belongs where, and even the adults sometimes have to consult with Birthe to make sure the waste ends up in the right bags.
A quarter later, the sorting is over and the trip goes back to the classroom and lunch..
The school has a nature reserve, where nature has free play and there are clear rules of play to stay there. After lunch we visit with some of the pupils. A couple of stacked pallets catch my attention and I ask the boys what it is for a construction.
“It’s our insect hotel. Insects are important in nature, which is why we have made houses for them where they can live and have a good time,” they answer.
A few ladybugs and wood louses later we are back in the classroom for today’s creative and final assignment.
What will you do for the climate?
A week of outdoor learning and focus on the climate is drawing to an end. The children must now write down what they will do in the future to help the Earth getting over the fever.
“I want to keep nature clean and never pollute.”
“I want to use smaller bags.”
“I want to try cycling more at school.”
“I don’t want to use silver foil.”
But the big winner in the classes is: I don’t want to use plastic.
All the tasks of the day are over. The week with Birthe is over for the 3rd year pupils, and now it’s finally time to taste some Spanish cakes, which Aleix has brought. I leave Sabro-Korsvejskolen a lot more climate conscious than when I arrived. My conscience hits me, as I settle into my diesel car to take the trip back to Aarhus.
But like the kids, I have a plan for how to put a greener imprint on the future. The silver paper is discarded, and beeswax is bought in bulk. Slightly fewer prints for proofreading and even more waste sorting at home.
Not only did Birthe make an impression on the students at the Sabro-Korsvejskole, she certainly made an impression on me as well.
Sabro-Korsvejskolen is a certified Eco-school. Sustainabiliy and Climate issues are in most subjects, and the school has a Green council with students, headteacher and teachers participating. Apart from that, all levels have a week of sustainability teaching in project form by Birthe Jason.
The three first year of schooling it is Outdoor Learning in project form, enhancing Natureconnectedness.
4th school year Creativity and Reuse
5th year Social Skills, Nonviolent communication and Conflict handling.
6th year a project about the UN 2030-goals transformed into everyday goals.
7th year Preparing for crisis with the headline: The Zombies are coming”
8th year Sustainability and Entrepreneurship
9th year: SustainaBElity. How to live a good life, which is also a sustainable life