The National Conference has always had a strong emphasis on putting Young People at the heart of the proceedings. Further to the incredible creative contributions from several schools in the mornings activities at Union Chapel, 80 young leaders from six different secondary schools from across the country returned to our workshop venue at St Mary Magdalene Academy, Islington.
Here the delegation of young leaders were welcomed by members of the Archbishops Young Leaders Award Team, representatives from Zellar, the Ministry of Eco Education and Southwark Diocese. Bishop Paul Butler greeted the young people with a prayer of blessing and a challenge to use to the day to seek solutions to the climate emergency.
The young leaders then embarked on a series of interactive workshops that had been designed to enable them to share, problem solve and expand their own understanding of what it means to truly live sustainably. This was initially framed with an opening workshop around how we love our planet and specifically around the biblical definition of Agape love.
“Agape love is a sacrificial love that unites and heals. It is the love of God that we see through Jesus Christ dying on the cross. This love saves and restores humanity.”
As part of the workshops, Young Leaders were invited to ask pertinent questions to a panel of sustainability pioneers: including Zellar founder Gary Styles, Mary Fellowes (Sustainability Consultant in the Fashion and Luxury Sectors) and Sarah Suddrey (Bin Twinning Lead). The discussions were inspiring as each of them explored how their work can impact on everybody in the room and the planet. Questions included:
- Are electric cars as good for the environment as we think?
- How can I have nice clothes sustainably?
- Can every single waste product be recycled into something new/useful?
The day was concluded with a series of workshops around taking action and dreaming big. The young leaders were motivated to go deeper in their concerns for the environment by exploring significant statistics and then given the space to create blueprints for their collective future schools to take back to senior leaders in their contexts. Solutions schools thought of were:
- Having spaces that encourage biodiversity. An allotment on the roof, planters to make school a more attractive, wind turbines and living walls with grape vines.
- Another school was inspired by the Bible verse in Matthew 7 v 12 “Do to others what you would want them to do to you” and wanted some of their field to have space for solar panels, a farm with sheep that would house an outdoor learning area.
- A lake or pond to promote mindfulness and a prayer area next to it.
- Bee hives with bees that produce honey to sell or eat.
- A mural of the school logo to be made out of recycled materials
A truly incredible and inspiring day that will create many ripples over the coming the years as the young people digest and act out of the discussions they had. These young leaders will now be part of taking each of theirs schools on a sustainability journey which we will track over the coming months.
“Thank you for what was a wonderfully rich day! Our students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and came back buzzing with enthusiasm and ideas which they are already sharing in our assemblies this week.” Secondary Teacher
Post-conference, the next steps are that the students go out and using the free one year subscription to Zellar to LEAD the change in their lives, their schools and their communities. Love those around them, be Examples of sustainable pioneers, through the Actions they do and Dream the next steps to implement practical sustainability in their schools.
“What a day!!!! The students who accompanied me got so much out of it - they loved every minute and listening to the keynote speakers gave them a real buzz. Then to have the range of activities and speakers in the afternoon topped it off!” Secondary Teacher