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Catholic Schools Eco Newsletter Number 2

April 10 2008:

St Theresa's pupil recommends turning off the lights.

Spring 2008

Welcome back from your holidays. I hope they were restful and revitalising.

I hope too that this second Catholic Schools Eco newsletter isn’t an unwelcome addition to the overwhelming pile of e-correspondence awaiting you on your return, but we’ve had such inspiring ideas from some members of the network this month that I wanted to send them straight on to you.

This month Adrian Trapp (currently taking a Fellowship at Farmington Institute) has sent us a letter about eco-assemblies, including a lovely example called “Don’t Sink from the Boat”. It is adapted from the Jewish Declaration at Assisi in 1986, but as you’ll see it’s suitable and fun for children from many faith backgrounds. ARC was of course founded as a direct result of the Assisi event, which we helped co-organise with WWF-International. So we were therefore delighted to receive Adrian’s letter and see how ideas are still springing creatively from something that was first set in place when many of today’s teachers were themselves still sitting cross-legged in assemblies!

There is also a lovely example of a Lent calendar from St Theresa’s, Catholic Primary School – which could nicely be adapted to Advent – with new eco ideas every day, like joining the library, buying fair-trade flowers, growing tomatoes, and thinking about every single thing you put in the bin today. Its 1.3MB but I think it’s worth the e-weight!

Link here to download the Lenten Calendar.

* Next time this newsletter will include more from Alison Spurrell at St Theresa’s Catholic Primary School which has had an active eco group since May 2006, with regular newsletters (often printed on the back of the holiday dates letter to save resources).

* I’ll also be putting in some ideas and stories from a UNICEF conference for youth facilitators wanting to address climate change, which I attended in Geneva last week. While I was there the South African scout leaders showed me how they made water filters from plastic bottles and sand, and told me how they cook on home made solar stoves. By then I’ll hopefully have experimented to find out whether the British climate offers similar culinary opportunities!

"When we drive our cars, when we fly, when we use electricity we produce greenhouse gases that are destroying the environment. What can we do? We could try and walking and cycling a bit more, but we must make our voice heard when we say that we want greener sources of energy, like solar power, wind power and wave power."
* Any other articles, comments or suggestions for next time also welcome.

Best wishes from ARC.

P.S. If you missed the lovely BBC broadcast from Bishop Declan Lang’s garden at dawn this weekend, then you can hear it again by linking here


By Adrian Trapp

Below is one of the assemblies from my work for the Farmington Institute in Oxford. All of these are simple to use, light-hearted, and, hopefully, provocative. So much of the media coverage on the subject is negative and gloom-laden, perhaps with good reason, but pupils surely need something that is uplifting as well. Upper Key Stage 2 pupils and those in Key Stage 3 and 4 should not need much help to adapt them as they wish.


(Adapted from the Jewish Declaration at Assisi (1986: 31).

Props: 2 pupils in a rowing boat, so props could simply be 2 chairs close together; perhaps a blue cloth could be held by 2 other pupils near the ground and moved to represent waves, or the 2 actors could be in a small boat (canoe, dinghy or similar – eg cardboard representing side of small boat).

Tools, mock saw, saw and wood with adult.

1: "It’s a lovely day, the sun is shining and it would be good to get away from this lot". (gestures at watching pupils and gets in boat).

2: "OK, but this time we’ll take it in turns to row: last time I rowed the whole time". (gets in and starts to row, No 1 leans back and relaxes).

1: "This is great, just the 2 of us in our own boat- much more comfortable than being over there" (again, gestures at pupils).

(After a while, 1 starts to row, and 2 relaxes, leans back, looks around at the sky, yawns, looks around again, appears bored. Takes out some tools and looks at them (eg hammer). Then pulls out saw, and fiddles with it until he/she decides to saw at bottom of boat).

1: "Are you mad? If you make a hole in this boat we both go down!"

2: "That’s your side of the boat; this is mine. You do what you want there and I’ll do want I want here. Simple enough, eh?"

1: "Not really! If you do that you’ll ruin my side as well as yours! We’ll both sink!"

2: "OK! Keep your hair on! Don’t get sore" (then points at saw). "What shall I do?" (asks audience). (either takes advice to saw, or if the audience is in doubt says, "Well I’m going to do it anyway! Why shouldn’t I?").

(Saws and adult saws wood in background. Water (blue cloth) rises. 2 pupils have just heads above water).

1: "I told you! Now we’ve lost the boat forever. That’s the only boat we’ve got! We’ll have to swim for it!"

3: This is an old story from the Jewish faith. For Jews today and for lots of other people, the boat stands for the natural world in which we live, the air, the sea, trees and plants, fish, birds and creatures, everything around us. It is not just my world or your world – it is our world, and the world of people not yet born. It is the only place we have to live. They can swim to the shore and get out of the water – if we destroy this planet then there is nowhere else to go. When we just think about ourselves like that rower, then we threaten the planet for ourselves and for others.

If We Love our Neighbour We Don’t Poison their Air. Christians look at the Bible. In it God looked at the world He had created and He saw that it was good. He wanted humans to care for the world, to ‘tend’ it, but that is not always what we have done.

Christians look at the teaching of Jesus. He said that we must love God and love our neighbour. If we love our neighbour we don’t poison their air, we don’t spoil their sea, we don’t destroy their trees and plants. We don’t destroy the planet for people who will want to live here in the future.

Lots of people care about our planet. Gradually we’re finding ways of helping the environment. If we all work together then there can be bright future for everyone and for our environment.

What Can We Do? (perhaps use with pictures, posters or props).

1: When we drive our cars, when we fly, when we use electricity we produce greenhouse gases that are destroying the environment.

What can we do? We could try and walking and cycling a bit more, but we must make our voice heard when we say that we want greener sources of energy, like solar power, wind power and wave power.

2: When we destroy the rainforests, when we cut down trees without thought, we often ruin the soil, we lose precious habitats and we threaten the air we breathe.

What can we do? Is there anywhere at home, at school or in our community where we could plant trees? We could find out in more detail what is happening to the rainforests, and try to let governments know what we think.

3: When we don’t bother to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic, then we put even more strain on our planet.

What can we do? Just try and recycle the waste that comes out of our home and our class.

4: When we drop litter, then we spoil our world and create danger for some animals.

What can we do? Not drop our own litter and make sure that there are bins around school for us to use? Many of us think that there is too much wrapping for the things that we buy in the shops?


Heavenly Father, Teach us to see the world as You see it: as a great blessing. Help us to be a blessing in our turn to the world about us

Lord, in Your Mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord God, Help us to care for the world that You have created. Teach us to plant as well as to cut down; teach us to recycle as well as to use; teach us to give as well as to take; teach us to listen to the natural world as well as to make our own noise.

Lord, in Your Mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, Make us more aware of our neighbour. Make us realise that we all share the joys of the same planet and that we have a duty to think of the needs of others. Do we really love our neighbour in the way that we behave?

Lord, in Your Mercy, Hear our prayer.

We ask that we may take the time to listen to the message of peace and stillness that is found in the wonders of the world around us.

Lord, in Your Mercy, Accept these prayers For the sake our Your Son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

A further commentary from Adrian:

Many people still ask: “What has religion got to do with ecology and the environment? Isn’t belief focussed on the next life, not this one? What have events in the dim and distant past got to do with modern problems? What ecological teaching is there in the Bible, anyway?”

We all understand the force of these arguments, but they miss the point. The Jesus we meet in the New Testament comes with the whole positive ‘baggage’ of Jewish care and respect for the environment, which Christianity has largely managed to jettison.

I have tried to incorporate some of the stories associated with this teaching in my assemblies. Secondly, the focus, again and again, in the Gospels is upon the important guiding principles, not on detailed instructions, so that Christianity is, and should, be a dynamic religion – is it really that difficult to work out what ‘Love your Neighbour?’ means in the context of global warming, deforestation, pollution and the exploitation of finite resources? Children don’t seem to think so! Thirdly, if we believe that God created and sustains the world, which He saw was ‘good’, then we are more ‘this-worldly’ as well as being more ‘other-worldly’. It is not either/or. Finally, the religious view examines the behaviour that has contributed to our present problems – it is looking at causes and not just effects, and so it should have a profound and unique voice.


Link here to read other Catholic Schools Eco Newsletters.

Link here to Sound of Many Waters initiative

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