As we are all aware, our planet is facing an uncertain future. Belhaven Hill School, a co-educational boarding and day school in Dunbar, East Lothian, wants their children to develop the mindsets and skillsets to face the challenges of a changing world with confidence rather than fear.
Olly Langton, Headmaster of Belhaven says: “We wanted to ensure that our pupils know that they can have a significant impact on their environment now and in the future. So, my wife Rosie and I came up with the idea of developing a Community of Prep and Primary Schools (COPPS1) in Scotland to energise the children and bring them together to form an alliance to protect the things they love.
“We were also keen to involve members of the local Dunbar community where there is a strong environmental ethos which encourages collaboration.”
On Thursday 17th March 2022, six schools participated in the inaugural COPPS1 event, held at Belhaven Hill School. Pupils from Gordonstoun Junior School, Strathallan Prep School, Ardvreck, Fettes Prep and Cargilfield joined their friends at Belhaven in teams of ten. The brief was to produce a plan for a product or initiative and an accompanying poster and presentation. Each school linked their plan to a relevant charity.
The categories for the climate change event were defined by the annual Earthshot Prize, so each team had to choose one of the following options:
The Restoration and Protection of Nature
The teams presented to a panel of judges from the sustainability sector: Jonathan Hodges, Senior Innovation Engineer at Wave Energy Scotland; Duncan Lang, Senior Environment Specialist at the Asian Development Bank; and Izzy Heard, Technical Officer for the Climate Disclosure Project. The panellists introduced themselves before watching each ten-minute presentation and giving immediate feedback.
The teams then completed a carousel of environmentally themed talks and activities. They heard from Surfers Against Sewage and were encouraged to ‘Think Global; Act Local’. The girls and boys represented their own projects on a collaborative ‘Tree of Life’ art installation. Then, courtesy of Marie-Clare James, the owner of local Belhaven Smokehouse, they tasted sustainably sourced salmon and learnt about the fish production process.
“It was a pleasure to hear the great ideas and passionate presentations from this next generation of climate-aware thinkers,” says Jonathan Hodges from Wave Energy Scotland.
“The projects started by these students have already created positive change in their schools and communities and I have no doubt they will follow-up with more. Great career opportunities await them in the future - they are all poised to make a really positive impact on the world's challenges.”
In the afternoon, pupils took part in the Scottish Prep Schools Debating Championship – the motion challenged the children to consider whether short haul flights should be banned. An eloquent and passionate debate followed, demonstrating the enthusiasm stimulated by the day’s opportunities.
Cargilfield achieved well-deserved victories in both the competitive elements of the day.
The prize for Outstanding Individual Award on the day went to Alec from Ardvreck, who went away with a voucher for a surfing lesson down at Belhaven Bay, thanks to the generosity of the local surf school, Coast2Coast. The next day, the Bay was also the location for the first ForthSHORE beach clean by pupils from Belhaven with GreenTweed Eco.
All the children took away a bird box, thanks to the East Lothian Primary Schools Bird Box project sponsored by ArdMoor, a certificate, a sense of achievement, a better understanding of climate and environmental issues, and new friends. It was also a reminder that, after two years of enforced separation, there is immense value to be found in the collaboration of optimistic young people, inspired by a common cause.
The next stage of this collaborative venture is for all of the schools to take part in a joint fundraising venture in the summer term. This will raise money for the initiative and charity chosen by Cargilfield, which was their prize for delivering the best presentation.
Jonathan Hodges adds: “COPPS1 was a brilliant event and has clearly inspired this new team of environmental advocates.”
Belhaven’s focus on Outdoor Education, in its idyllic setting above Belhaven Bay, combined with its exciting new digital programme, aims to instil the children with a love of nature and the ability to affect change in the modern world. You can learn more about Belhaven Hill School on their website.