In our rapidly changing world, addressing climate change has become an urgent necessity. Educating younger generations about the complexities of this critical issue is more important than ever. As the climate crisis intensifies, finding innovative ways to engage children and young people in meaningful conversations about the environment becomes crucial and requires innovative pedagogical approaches. We believe this is where creative education comes into play.

Introducing “Acting on Climate”

“Acting on Climate” is an education research project that brings together experts in education, performing and digital arts, and videography to tackle climate change education in a fresh way. Led by Dr. Rachel Turner-King and Dr. Bobby Smith (University of Warwick), this initiative partnered with local schools in Coventry to involve young minds in exploring the climate crisis. The project aims to empower young people as co-creators, allowing them to express their perspectives and nascent understanding of the climate crisis through various creative outputs.

The project focuses on four main goals:

  • Enhanced Understanding: Enabling students to grasp how creative practices can address complex environmental issues.
  • Youth Advocacy: Cultivating students’ confidence in advocating for action on climate change and inspiring others to do the same.
  • Digital Resources: Creating a digital educational resource that showcases youth perspectives on climate change for the wider public.
  • Innovative Teaching: Deepening the understanding of how digital technologies and the arts can be used in both physical and virtual classrooms to promote environmental awareness.

Through a collaborative and experimental approach, the project uncovered some key findings:

  • Creative Learning: The use of creative, interactive methods allowed students to engage deeply with the subject matter.
  • Confident Voices: Students and teachers reported improved confidence in discussing climate change within their communities, both locally and globally.
  • Emotional Connection: Arts-based approaches, like theatre and storytelling, fostered personal and emotional connections to the climate crisis.
  • Empowered Engagement: Prioritising students’ voices and stories led to enhanced engagement and understanding, surpassing the effectiveness of simply presenting facts and figures.

The project’s approach aligns with research on “Science Capital,” advocating for personalised teaching that connects scientific concepts to students’ lives. By focusing on personal stories and emotions, the project aimed to create a caring and meaningful learning experience.

Overview FLUX

FLUX is a dynamic education consultancy with a big passion for creative learning and dedication to innovative learning. They’re the driving force behind Moving Science, a fresh approach to education that’s been shaking up STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) engagement since 2013.

The distinctive hallmark of FLUX lies in its artful integration of dance and STEM disciplines, by blending arts into STEM education, they’re bringing exciting new ways of learning to students across the UK.

Originating as a dance-theatre company with a specialised focus on science public engagement, today, their diverse range of education and training services has evolved to encompass a wide spectrum of offerings, all rooted in the power of creativity. Their innovative projects touch communities, schools, and university research departments across the UK.

With its resolute commitment to integrating arts into STEM subjects, FLUX continues to invigorate the educational arena by imparting novel STEAM engagement and education undertakings to diverse sectors across the UK.

Acting on Climate x FLUX Context:

Acting on Climate and FLUX have collaborated to explore how the pedagogical research from the University of Warwick can be effectively applied within a different learning context. The collaboration aimed to adapt academic insights into actionable strategies within FLUX workshops, enhancing climate change education for young participants.

Over a weekend, a series of five 25–30-minute workshops took place at the Eureka Science and Discovery centre in Merseyside, UK. These workshops were designed to engage families visiting the centre. Skilled facilitators led the sessions, offering accessible and enjoyable learning experiences on climate-related topics.

The combination of Acting on Climate and FLUX Moving Science, while presenting a promising approach, also brings forth a host of challenges and the need for careful adaptations.

Key Challenges:

Adopting an Acting on Climate approach within the bounds of a FLUX Moving Science workshop brings forth unique challenges that demand creative solutions:

Constrained Timeframe: FLUX Moving Science workshops typically run for a concise 20-30 minutes, compared to the more comprehensive timeframes of the Acting on Climate approach. Adapting and condensing Acting on Climate’s content to fit this shorter time span while maintaining its impact was a significant challenge.

Diverse Audience: The FLUX workshops accommodate a mixed-age group ranging from 3 to 12 years old. Working with participants of varying ages, abilities, and confidence levels, with no prior knowledge about the group, requires careful planning to craft content that resonates with such a broad spectrum of ages, and demands content that is accessible and captivating. A finely tuned adaptive strategy was needed to ensure participant engagement and comprehension.

With each FLUX workshop catering to a new group of young participants from a family audience, it’s imperative to strike a balance between customisation and consistency. This necessitated retaining certain components of a FLUX workshop, such as the “Buss” game, which not only imparts vocabulary but also swiftly establishes rapport, measures confidence, and builds a safe environment for experimentation and collaboration quickly and effectively.

Parental Involvement: Parents and guardians observing the workshop introduce an additional layer of complexity. The facilitator not only faces performance-like dynamics but also must manage potential distractions, participant buy-in challenges and parental reactions that can influence a child’s participation. Further work was needed to develop strategies to manage parental influence, such as clearly communicating the purpose of the workshop and providing better opportunities for parents to engage positively.

Eco-Anxiety Considerations: The subject of climate change may evoke eco-anxiety among young participants. Addressing this concern sensitively and providing a constructive platform for discussing emotions was essential.

Key Synergies:

Despite the challenges, there are several points of alignment that offer an opportunity to craft a meaningful learning experience:

Starting from the Participant’s Perspective: Both methodologies share a foundational principle and prioritise commencing education from where the young participants are. By gauging their prior knowledge and associations with climate change, facilitators can tailor the content effectively.

Building Rapport: Both methods recognise the importance of building rapport with the participants. While FLUX employs the “Buss” game, Acting on Climate focuses on interactive exercises that foster collaboration and experimentation.

Artistic Exploration of Science: There is a shared use of arts-based approaches to teach scientific concepts. Integrating movement, games, and drama activities offers a multi-dimensional way of engaging with complex ideas. However, FLUX is hired to impart scientific knowledge through movement and games. Adapting the Acting on Climate approach while maintaining FLUX’s contractual obligations required thoughtful manoeuvring.

Simplifying Complexity: Explaining the intricate and multifaceted aspects of climate change to young minds without oversimplification or misleading information poses a significant educational challenge and required a delicate balance.

Key Adaptations:

To successfully adapt the Acting on Climate pedagogical process within the confines of a FLUX Moving Science workshop, the following strategies were adopted:

Strategic Time Management:  The team significantly needed to condense key elements of the Acting on Climate approach to fit the shorter workshop timeframe without compromising essential learning outcomes.

Tailoring Themes: The Acting on Climate educational framework delves into the climate emergency through three distinct lenses: Globalisation, Power and Agency, and Connection to Land. Globalisation is further explored through three themes – food, fashion, and flowers. The Power and Agency lens involves identifying key players who possess the power to drive change, while also encouraging participants to position themselves along a spectrum of power. The Connection to Land perspective employs various drama techniques to uncover young people’s ties to their surroundings—whether local spaces they frequent or global locations with cultural and heritage significance. This exploration aims to prompt participants to share personal land-related stories, fostering an emotional connection to the environment. Primarily designed for secondary school audiences, these themes are skilfully, care-fully and responsively navigated over a substantial period to meticulously delve into the complexities of climate change. When adapting these themes for the shorter timeframe of FLUX Moving Science workshops and given the age range of the participants, the team narrowed their focus towards the “Connection to Land” theme.

Animal-Centric Exploration: Given the age group, exploring climate change through an animal’s point of view rather than a participant’s own view felt more appropriate, and provided a mechanism for talking about the impact of Climate Change without implicating young children and their families.

Storytelling as a device: FLUX does not traditionally use storytelling within its Moving Science workshops. But wanted to explore this as a possibility as this is a central device within Acting on Climate’s pedagogical approach. A storytelling device, “story woosh,” was used to quickly use story as a learning mechanism and evoke emotional connections, particularly from the perspective of animals and their habitats. A story of a polar bear and her cub encountering a break in sea ice proved incredibly useful and enabled a removed emotional connection.

While attempting to tell a story of a young farmer in India – to share a hopeful story of adaptation and land restoration, the team found that it’s crucial to refine and integrate such narratives seamlessly with earlier activities to maintain flow and relevance and so did not include this story in further workshops but with further thought could be incorporated in the future.

Framing a Hopeful Future: FLUX adopted Acting on Climate’s approach by framing the discourse around climate change in a hopeful light, mitigating the overwhelming and disheartening nature of the topic. The team aimed to address potential eco-anxiety through age-appropriate discussions and activities that empower young participants to channel their emotions constructively and find out more about climate change after the short session by wayfinding them to an exhibit housed within Eureka Science and Discovery Centre.

FLUX’s Focus on Teaching Science: Acting on Climate places a distinct emphasis on building a personal connection to climate change before delving into factual content. This pedagogical approach recognises the importance of fostering an emotional engagement with the subject matter as a foundational step towards deeper comprehension. FLUX places a strong emphasis on introducing scientific vocabulary early on and begins by exploring key vocabulary. This is done to ensure there is a shared understanding of the topic among participants and lays the foundation for meaningful discussions later. The rationale behind this strategy lies in research indicating that vocabulary acts as a potential barrier for young learners when grappling with scientific concepts.

During their workshops, FLUX seeks to convey scientific knowledge, within this workshop focusing on the greenhouse effect, through a creative and interactive strategy. With specific participant groups, FLUX engaged in a hands-on exploration, integrating artistic elements to simplify a complex scientific concept. To achieve this, they utilised a parachute and bubbles as interactive tools, employing a two-part approach to facilitate effective understanding.

In the first activity, the incorporation of blowing bubbles served as a catalyst for discussing the causes of climate change. By employing this familiar prop, the team initiated conversations about significant contributors to climate change, including fossil fuel usage, over farming practices, plastic pollution, and deforestation. By allowing the participants to pop the bubbles they were also able to talk about an individual role in tackling the climate crisis.

In the subsequent activity, the team utilised a parachute to delve deeper into the concept of the greenhouse effect and its relation to the Earth’s atmosphere. This allowed participants to visualise the dynamics of the greenhouse effect, enabling them to reflect on the role of the atmosphere in trapping heat—a fundamental component of climate change. By physically engaging with the parachute, participants were encouraged to consider the atmosphere’s significance and its influence on our planet’s temperature regulation.

The division of the activities, initially combined, into distinct bubble and parachute segments was a strategic decision aimed at enhancing clarity and ensuring that participants comprehended each facet of the greenhouse effect individually.

By utilising playful tools like bubbles and a parachute, the team endeavoured to make scientific concepts accessible and relatable, empowering participants to engage with climate change topics in an immersive and memorable manner.

Potential for Methodological Synergy:

The approach employed by FLUX Moving Science to convey scientific understanding aligns with the core principles of Acting on Climate’s methodology. The integration of experiential and arts-based methods to engage with complex scientific concepts has the potential to enrich Acting on Climate’s pedagogical strategies. Within Acting on Climates extended timeframe, there is scope to begin with personal connections and then room to delve into the science when appropriate. A careful adaptation of FLUX’s approach, while considering the needs and abilities of secondary school participants, could effectively supplement the existing framework of Acting on Climate.

The fusion of the Acting on Climate pedagogical process with the FLUX Moving Science workshop presents a unique opportunity to engage young audiences with the critical topic of climate change. By embracing the challenges and capitalising on the synergies between these two approaches, the facilitators were able to create a transformative learning experience that empowered young minds to understand, care for, and contribute positively to the planet’s future.

Charlotte – Acting on Climate Team and Founder of FLUX