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Local Schools Respond to the Energy Crisis and Climate Emergency

By One Planet

The Sustainable Schools Program (SSP) run in KZN by local Howick NGO, One Planet SA, is supporting 27 local schools to improve their environmental practices through gardening, recycling, waste management, land conservation and wise resource use. School facilitator Julia Invernizzi explains that everything the SSP does around saving water, soil, energy and biodiversity is intrinsically linked to building resilience to adapt to the very real scenario of a warming planet that is playing out today.

In their national science curriculum, Grade 7 learners are tasked with learning about energy forms and heat transfer principles. The One Planet facilitators have worked with the natural science teachers at school level to deliver on the outcomes of the curriculum but took this information one step further by demonstrating some of these principles in the design and use of a solar oven and an energy reducing hotbox or “Wonder-bag”. Importantly they also shared with the learners some of the truths about the Climate emergency too.

While the urgent message of extreme heat waves brought about by a radically changing climate continue to grab news headlines all over the world, it should be noted that South Africa particularly will be affected by the consequences of climate change. South Africa currently holds the unenviable ranking as the 11th highest carbon emitter in the world and is expected to experience a temperature rise of more than twice the global temperatures rate of 1 degree per century!

Addressing climate change is therefore not just a global matter but urgently needs to be brought to the forefront of national policy. Education is therefore key to equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about how to adapt. Unfortunately, our school syllabus is fragmented and there is a disjunction between learning the stated curriculum requirements of energy principles and fossil fuels, and providing learners with the practical information needed to really understand our role in climate change.

Learners were enthralled by the simple and practical methodologies, in particular using clean free solar energy and a solar oven, plus a wonderbag too. We worked with over 500 learners from a number of our schools to build their own functional solar ovens for their schools as a small step to taking action and trying out a new path. Renewable energy, and the testing of solar cooking is core to the National Science curriculum, however the practical aspect of this is often omitted. This activity proved a fun and practical measure to empowering our children with the knowledge and skills to build their own functional solar ovens with mostly recycled materials.

A simple box solar oven can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius on a hot day and can easily slow cook many meals. Learners thoroughly enjoyed their apple crumble bake with custard! It is hard to understand why every household in sunny South Africa doesn’t have one of each or that you can’t buy one at every hardware store in the country, particularly in these dark and dirty coal-fired eskom days?!

Mr Khumalo, an educator from Corrie-Lynn school was very impressed, stating: “The One Planet team really helped to bring the textbook to life with simple insulation and conduction experiments.” Both learner and educator benefit from the programme, as the frequently overworked and understaffed teachers at Corrie-Lynn often find it difficult and time consuming to plan exciting lessons and appreciate the variety that the One Planet climate change sessions offer their classes. Furthermore learning principles with real applications such as the design and testing of a solar cooker, empowers learners to take simple measures to reduce their electricity consumption at home.


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