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Catholic Schools Eco Newsletter No.3

12 May 2008:

Find out how to "meet a tree", an activity suggested by All Hallow's School, Shepton Mallet.

Hello, and welcome to the third Catholic Eco Schools Newsletter for Catholic Schools in the Clifton Diocese and beyond. The distribution list is expanding nicely and we are also getting some good feedback – both from within and without the network.

In this newsletter, are:

1. A letter from St Teresa’s primary school in Bristol about its experience starting an environment network.

2. Ideas about forests and taking time to observe nature from All-Hallows – and a request from us for other people’s ideas on how to run a Catholic/religious Earth Day for schools.

3. Details of a new book of assembly materials created for Church of England schools in the UK, but with many ideas that would be of interest for Catholic schools.

4. Dates for your diaries.

But first a note from ARC St Teresa’s Lent calendar – sent out last time, and downloadable from our website - has been particularly well-received. Not only by schools but we’ve noticed that all of our colleagues with children – Catholic or not - have, quite independently, taken copies home. Indeed one consultant, visiting for the day and finding a printout lying on a table, came into my office and waved it around with excitement asking “have you seen this?” before making a copy for her own children’s school in Sussex.

So we asked Alison Spurrell from St Teresa’s to contribute a short piece about her school’s experience, and its own eco-newsletters (one is attached as a sample). For future newsletters we need more contributions like this one…

A week or so ago we attended a Working Group on Schools and the Environment organised by the Clifton Diocese – and found plenty of inspiration for future newsletters.

The team from All Hallows, for example, had just finished an Earth Day extravaganza at the school, in which the whole curriculum was greened for the day. We had thought that other Catholic schools might like to do the same – perhaps around October 4th St Francis of Assisi Feast Day, which is rapidly becoming the culmination of a relatively new Christian celebration of the environment that stretches from September 1 to October 4, and is becoming known more widely as Creationtide.

Next time we’ll include more about Creationtide, as well as tips from All Hallows about setting up your own Earth Day. Please also send in information about your own experiences of introducing original and engaging ecological challenges in schools as well as any areas where you would welcome fresh ideas, resources and insights. But as a tempter this time, I’ve put in a couple of activities from All Hallows. Do tell us if you use any of these – with pictures if possible!

I’m planning to run another newsletter this term – so far the possible subjects (as well as Earth Days) include details of a successful bike hiring scheme organised for sixth-formers in Bristol; the experience of St Joseph’s in Swindon of eco-twinning/construction-twinning with a school in Africa.

Please send your ideas or information or appeals to us on these or any other ecological subjects by June 12th.

Best wishes. _______________________________________________________


“We formed an eco group at St Teresa’s almost two years ago, after attending a training day run by the EcoSchools organisation in Bristol. When we thought about what was already going on, which included paper recycling, fruit snacks for the infants and compost bins for the waste, we were encouraged to move forward.

The work escalated very quickly and since then we have introduced many initiatives, too many to name them all, but they include the installation of a cycle shelter (after compiling a travel plan), tree planting, a whole-school mosaic, pedestrian training (encourages walking), the addition of a water butt, cardboard and plastic recycling, fair trade sales, water use monitoring and schemes to encourage energy saving. We enter competitions (Yellow Pages recycling, poetry, posters etc), which keep momentum going as well as inter-class competitions for walking to school and switching off lights.

I was keen to join the Diocesan working group as I have often felt that while the work we are doing to show the children (and their families) the simple and straightforward things we can all do to help the environment is important and worthwhile, it is exactly what I would be doing if I had the job in any school, not necessarily a Christian one. I feel there must be more we can do which demonstrates that caring for the environment is part of our religious duty as well as our moral one.

I was very pleased, therefore, when the Bishop announced ‘Sound of Many Waters’, the year-long project in the Diocese. The Bishop points out that he has been appointed as the Bishop for Environmental Justice. Justice for our natural world, and all the people in it must surely be our aim.

In Lent this year, the Eco group compiled a Lent Calendar, which families could use at home, and which was attached to the previous Eco-schools newsletter, or can be downloaded from ARC’s website. Many children (and adults) do not undertake a Lenten promise any more and we thought this would provide inspiration for those who were bored with giving up sweets or their favourite comic. The children came up with the different tasks that families could complete and we sent a copy home to each family as well as to our parish.

This is our first foray into the world of linking our faith with the care of our world. I am very keen to hear other schools’ plans and ideas of projects which can be carried out. We are not short of ideas of how the school can help the environment (just short of time to implement them!) but this link is very important to us and strengthening it is our main aim for future work.”

Note: St Teresa’s also sends out a regular eco schools group newsletter, full of news and information about recycling, the visit of Cycler the robot, and updates on the school’s Golden Boot prize for the class with the most people who walk or ride or Park & Stride to work… Please contact us if you would like to hear more about these, or write something similar about your own school or college.



Next time we’ll include a breakdown of possible activities for years 4,5,6,7 and 8 for a full curriculum Earth Day. But here, as a tempter, are examples of how to meet a tree, and also ideas about how to encourage children to really observe with all their senses.

a) Meet a tree: in which students are blindfolded and work in pairs in a wooded area.

One child at a time is blindfolded and led to a tree in the wood, which they will then explore with hands and face, guided by questions like: “Is the tree alive?” “Is the tree older than you?” Is the tree alive?” “Can you put your arms round it?” “Are there plants on it, what does it feel like?” Then they will return to the starting point by a circuitous route… and when the blindfold is removed, are asked to find “their” tree!

b) Warm Ups – to establish a calm mood for follow-on activities.

i.) Observation: close observation of a fruit or flower or cone etc for 10 minutes, followed by a drawing from what they remember.

ii) Listening: Find a special place. Shut your eyes and listen carefully. What can you hear? How many different things? What would be different 100 years ago?

iii) Smell: Eyes need to be closed! In a wood or in a classroom this is great for focusing the mind. Does it smell good or unpleasant? Can they relocate where they were standing just from the smell?

iv) Touch: Touch a number of things and describe what they are like in three words – bark of a tree, blade of grass, a stone, a daisy …..



We have recently been contacted by Rev.Chris Stafford, who is an Anglican vicar in Warrington and a passionate educationalist on environmental issues. He has just published a new book to inspire primary school assemblies called Care for the World which we haven’t yet seen at ARC, but nevertheless might be interesting for this network. It was designed for Church of England schools but can be used quite ecumenically.

It has three sections:

1. “Times and Seasons” with materials on Harvest, Remembrance, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter;

2. Ideas for ten different assemblies. Some are general, along the lines of caring for God's world, while others focus on specific issues such as greenhouse gases, over-fishing and frogs. Chris reminds that 2008 is the year of the frog – which might feed in to the Earth Day activities mentioned earlier.

3. Introducing big issues into assemblies, including poverty and fairtrade – and giving plenty of resources including green websites and books, puppet resources etc.

It is published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd and costs ₤16.99.

Link here for more details.


3. DATES for your DIARIES

*JUNE 5 ARC’s Martin Palmer promises an engaging talk at Bristol’s Clifton Cathedral on Saints and Sustainability as part of the Sound of Many Waters year of Catholic eco-action. The date marks the UN’s World Environment Day. Link here for more details on the event.

* JUNE 6 Visit Bristol’s fabulous Festival of Nature which runs in early June and opens with a big concert at St George's: Festival of Nature Concert



Link here to download St Teresa's Primary School's Lenten Calendar

Link here to read other Catholic Schools Eco Newsletters.

Link here for The Sound of Many Waters environmental initiative by Clifton Cathedral.

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