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Teacher leads the way for climate change in the classroom

Published June 26, 2019 10.10am

A County Durham teacher is among the first in the country to become a United Nations climate change champion.

Suzanne Nesbitt 2

Suzanne Nesbitt, teacher at The Durham Federation

Suzanne Nesbitt, teacher of geography at The Durham Federation, is one of the first to complete the new UN Climate Change course and the first to do so in County Durham.

Miss Nesbitt can now deliver up to date climate change lessons to her secondary school students and is currently in the process of setting up an innovative curriculum.

She said: "I have been interested in climate change for as long as I can remember, it has become a real passion of mine.

"I first realised there was a need to delve deeper into this climate crisis with my students when delivering enrichment lessons focusing on our planet. They were engaged with the documentaries and had endless questions about the impacts, how it would affect them and what could be done to stop it. 

"The information I learnt on the course was astounding and we really need to provide our students with knowledge to empower them to make decisions that can make a difference."

Climate in the curriculum 

Miss Nesbitt has designed a bespoke three-day learning plan, with various climate change cross-curricular activities.

English and music departments will be working together to create speeches and songs to teach others about climate change. Art lessons will create a mural out of all the plastic waste in school, and geography and science are focusing on air pollution and the causes, with work to be presented at a special science fair.

Finally, mathematics and cooking classes will be looking at food miles and local food sources. Pupils will create and cook menus to be shared with their parents and the community at a special event in July, where they showcase learning and work. 

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people's services, said: "Miss Nesbitt is a brilliant role model, raising important and relevant issues to her pupils for them to engage with and get passionate about. Bringing together all subjects highlights that children with all talents and all interests can make a difference."

Cllr John Clare, our Climate Change Champion and Cabinet support member for economic regeneration, said: "We know how important protecting our planet is, and educating the younger generation is vital for the future."

The UN course focuses on five different areas: climate change science; gender and environment; children and climate change; cities and climate change; and human health.

Sign up 

A target of 80 UK schools are being urged to sign up to take part in an initial trial of the course, lasting around two months. The programme is completely free, open to all primary and secondary school teachers.

The programme will then be made available to all schools across the UK with first lessons expected to be delivered in the classroom, fully funded by corporate sponsorship, in September 2019.

Angus Mackay, director of the UN Institute for Training and Research said: "Anyone below the age of 20 is part of the 'climate generation' living all or most of their lives having to deal with climate change. The Climate Change Teacher Training Academy is an excellent idea because it will give children an intuitive understanding of the issues and it is solution based."

Teachers can sign up to the Climate Change Teacher Training Academy to access the free lessons.

Find out more about climate change and what we are doing to address it.