REPORT england 2019

Monday 23rd September 2019

Monday saw the first working day of the programme planned by staff at The Whitby High School. Although the visit to London was not part of the original planning, when the opportunity arose to take the project to the capital and visit the Houses of Parliament, it was simply too good not to experience it. This visit to London and especially the Houses of Parliament enabled us to learn about the UK political system and democracy. Our tour lasted for around 1.30 hours, where we were expertly guided through the Houses of Parliament on the Democratic Access Tour, which explored the extensive history of Democracy in Britain and explained many of the ancient traditions of our Parliament, such as The Queen’s Speech, Black Rod and the role of The Speaker of the House. Both tour guides excelled in their delivery, providing both staff and students from all participating countries with knowledge and insights on how the UK political system works. We discussed our democratic system and how this has changed and developed through time. We learnt about how new bills are debated and passed in the House of Lords and Parliament. We also learnt about the history of the monarchy and the Queens involvement in our political system. We were also able to learn about how the Parliament buildings were once the highest courts in the land and learnt about some of the gruesome cases that have passed through the rooms in which we walked. We also visited the Supreme Court, where judges were considering the legality of Boris Johnson’s Proroguing of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, to explain the role of the constitutional monarch. The experience for all that were involved was very positive and we all came away with a much greater understanding of the UK political system. The link to the Earth Charter Principles of section 13 were easily relatable in our visit to London.

Tuesday 24th September 2019

The project was opened with a quick recap on the strands of the Earth Charter which had already been covered in the Netherlands and Spain. The focus of the UK week was outlined – Care for the Community of Life with care and respect and details of how the UK programme would meet the aims were highlighted.

Students participated in a workshop which linked back to their visit to The Houses of Parliament in which they looked at the issue of ‘Democracy, the Environment and Ecologism’. The premise of the lesson was to ask students to consider the priorities of current political parties and how they compare to environmental issues.  Students were further asked to recognise and prioritise their own consumption and needs before considering the ecologists’ view of the Earth as a ‘spaceship’ with finite resources. Finally, as part of a reflective exercise, students deliberated upon how they could change the focus of political parties in a democratic society so that the environment became a higher priority for them all.

The afternoon was spent in the city of Chester where students completed a ‘Goosechase” ice breaking activity.

Wednesday 25th September 2019

Students were given a presentation of the effect palm oil production is having on our planet and how we can consume palm oil sustainably. Having gained knowledge, students had to make a pledge to change one habit to reduce or improve their use of palm oil. This was followed by a visit to Chester Zoo where students were given another presentation by the zoo educational team. The team discussed the impacts humans have on wildlife across the globe and why it is important to be aware of the things we buy, do and eat. Students were then given an individual animal as a group and had to make an action plan for its protection. In the afternoon students were able to look around the zoo and meet many of the animals they had learned about and examples of the work of the zoo do with conservation.

Thursday 26th September 2019

During the morning , students participated in a workshop on Diversity in the UK. The main aim was to highlight the idea that all human beings are unique and deserve equal rights and equal respect. Students were introduced to the ‘Diversity” dance group who won the Britain’s got talent competition and explained that many people when they hear the word Diversity this is what they think of. Students were then asked to create their own group to enter the ‘Diversity Factor’. They had to consider the following:

  • Pop group name

  • Pop group members (think about a diverse range of people)

  • Statement that sums up why your pop group has the Diversity Factor

  • Some sample song names, lyrics and / or dance moves

Students enjoyed this fun activity and the European teachers made a judgement on which group of students created the most diverse group.

 

A philosophy and ethics teacher delivered a session based on Principle 2 of the Earth Charter, “Caring for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.” The aim of the session was for students to understand the meaning of compassion and how to show respect for the community of life. The students discussed the message that cosmologist Carl Sagan put forward in his inspirational book entitled: ‘The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space" (1994). We then looked at different examples of how people have demonstrated compassion in the world today and students shared their own examples. We also discovered how Christianity and Buddhism value compassion in their own beliefs and teachings. Students then reflected on their own personal pledge which stated how they could contribute to the community of life through personal acts of compassion. This was incorporated into a beautiful piece of art work represented as hands coming together as a rainbow. The rainbow symbolises human beings’ life alliance to caring for the community of life.

 

The aim of the afternoon session was to give an overview of the role and purpose of National Parks in the UK, starting with a look at their history and individual characteristics. This was then developed on an individual level by looking briefly at each of the 15 National Parks and introducing their specific landscapes. The topic of challenges was then explored at a general level, considering the challenges that these places experience in terms of the impact of tourism, climate change, habitats and communities. Students were then tasked with researching a chosen National Park in mixed groups and then producing a poster which introduced the location, the unique features, challenges and how they are being addressed.

Friday 27th September 2019

Our final day was spent in the Lake District. We wanted the students to gain an appreciation of an area of outstanding beauty. We had a trip on Lake Windermere to Brockhole in order for the students to appreciate their mountainous surroundings. Despite the rain, the environment was still spectacular to look at.

At Brockhole students were given a presentation on how the Lake District faces pressures from tourism and there was a focus on what young people could do to preserve natural environments. Students came up with some good suggestions – volunteering to help or raise money to contribute to the upkeep of such areas, cycling (electric bikes) instead of using cars, electric cars. They were introduced to how the Lake District National Authority is planning to introduce a ferry for local people to use in order to cut costs of using buses and cars.

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