Ten pupils from Freshford Church School were invited to Downing Street to attend a Green Great Britain Week reception addressing climate change and exploring environmentally-friendly technology.
“Raising awareness of one of the most urgent and pressing challenges of our time should start from an early age,” explained Energy Minister The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, who hosted the event.
“We talked about the problems caused by pollution,” said Alfie, 10, following the group’s discussion of cleaner energy solutions, such as electric cars, and the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The children performed experiments during an interactive session with Operation Earth, a national programme that presents environmental science in an accessible, family-friendly format. Inventor Laurence Kemball-Cook demonstrated his Pavegen smart-flooring which generates electricity from footsteps. Testing out this technology was a highlight for many of the pupils: “We got to jump up and down,” said Sofia, 8.
The day was a memorable experience for all. “It was exciting,” said Sofia. Alfie agreed, saying he hadn’t expected to ever visit Downing Street, and enjoyed walking up the staircase decorated with portraits of British prime ministers.
The visit was organised through Energy Sparks, an initiative that helps pupils analyse and reduce their school’s energy usage. Head Teacher, Andrew Wishart, said, “The Energy Sparks project provided a rich stream of easy to interpret data, meaningful actions and games that have inspired and enabled our children to become proactively engaged, with utter enthusiasm, in the day to day energy management of our school.”
Schools working with Energy Sparks are rewarded for effort and gain points for any activities related to energy-usage, such as educational sessions or practical projects. “By looking at their smart meter data on our website they see whether they’re making a difference,” explained Project Manager, Claudia Towner.
In Freshford, the children identified and replaced a faulty freezer and broken thermostat, delivering both cost and energy savings. The school also recently applied for planning permission for 26 solar panels.
The project was described as a positive experience by the children involved. “I’m proud of helping to save energy and helping to save the environment,” said Helen, 9.
Alfie and Sofia said they had arranged classroom talks and an energy assembly to raise awareness throughout the school. Their efforts have continued beyond the school gates too: “I’ve been going around the house saying, ‘This light doesn’t need to be on,’” said Sofia.
Energy Sparks currently works with nearly 20 schools in Somerset and is welcoming interest from Wiltshire schools.