Climate Projects Schools Can Do

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In addressing climate change, adaptation and mitigation are two universally recognized approaches. Climate solutions are found in adaptation action and mitigation action. Teachers and students can develop school projects on climate change that apply an understanding in adaptation or mitigation or even a combination of the two approaches. In an adaptation project, the idea is to provide a means to reduce climate change impact. In a mitigation project, the intent is to demonstrate a method to reduce carbon emissions. Meanwhile, a project that combines adaptation and mitigation components is also feasible.

A. Sample climate projects

  1. In SDN 5 Pekanbaru, an elementary school in the capital of Riau province, students are asked to bring a small plant in a polybag at the start of the new school year. At the end of the school year when parents collect their child’s report card, the parents also bring home the plant their child nurtured through the year. Growing plants is a mitigation project because green leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and thus reduce carbon emissions. Any payment parents may make for the plants go to the school’s green fund to support a variety of environment activities.
  2. SDN 5 Pekanbaru also has a daily clean-the-school activity. Every morning before class the childen in each classroom clean their room and sweep the hallway outside the classroom door. The rubbish is then collected in a big bin at the end of the hallway. The children also clean the restrooms and make sure the waste water drains are not clogged with litter. This clean-up is an adaptation activity to minimize the risk of flooding and disease from an unhealthy environment. Many schools already practice this clean-the-school activity. The difference is in the degree of intensity.
  3. In SDN 9 Bantarjati, an elementary school in Jakarta, students bring to school cooking oil waste from home. The school then sells it to the Transpakuan busline in Bogor for conversion to biofuel. SDN 9 makes an environment-friendly practice into a business. Converting organic waste into biofuel is a mitigation activity because biofuel emits less carbon than regular oil-based fuels. The project has an adaptation component also because it minimizes waste to keep the environment clean.
  4. In the subvillage (kampung) of Cisalopa, the district of Bogor, West Java, children from various local schools join Greenna Community, an environment teach-and-learn group. Cisalopa is in Pasir Buncir village, Caringin subdistrict. Using a local garden product, purple yam (ubi ungu), they make purple yam ice cream. The ice cream is sold at nearby schools. Making a product with local material is a mitigation activity because it minimizes the carbon footprint to get the material.
  5. In SMA 34, a public high school in Pondok Labu, South Jakarta, students learn and practice the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. One recycle activity they do is making writing paper from old newspapers and paper waste. 3R activities are already widespread in many schools and community groups. Is recycling a mitigation or adaptation activity? It uses local material so it does not enlarge the carbon footprint. It is a mitigation activity. It minimizes waste so it reduces climate impact. This is an adaptation activity. So recycling waste paper into useable writing paper combines a mitigation and adaptation approach. 3R activities are also linked to the starting of waste banks that many schools have also adopted. Old newpapers and discarded paper material, also plastic bottles, are collected in waste banks and sold to local recycling operators. Organic kitchen waste can be collected and recycled into compost to fertilize the plants that grow in the school yard.
  6. In Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, students learn outside the classroom. They visit national parks to learn the difference between natural and man-made ecosystems. Learning can be both an adaptation and mitigation activity.

B. Projects ideas

  1. Make T-shirts. Students draw designs with a climate message in pictures and words. One T-shirt a young man wore in a Jakarta office building had this profound message: Change your behavior before the climate changes you.
  2. Write short articles. Get students to write about a climate-related matter they find at home, in their neighborhood, at school, or even abroad. It is a first-person account of their experience they can share so that fellow students and many people can learn from it. One high school student at the Lab School on Jalan K.H.A. Dahlan in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, wrote about his time as a youth delegate in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico, December 2000. The article appeared in the Jakarta daily Kompas.
  3. Send a letter to the President. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a four-prong tagline to describe his government policy: Pro-growth. Pro-jobs. Pro-poor. Pro-green. Have students compose a 200-word letter asking SBY what he has not done but wants done in his pro-green program. The letter can complain, praise and make suggestions on what more the president can do about climate change.
  4. Express ideas. Writing has no limits. Assign students to write in 100 words what ideas they have for doable climate solutions with a local, national, or global scope.
  5. Produce a garden product. Purple yam ice cream gets brisk sales at Cisalopa elementary schools. Is there something in the school garden that has market potential?
  6. Recycling. Is there anything from the students’ home and in the school that students and teachers can recycle other than old newspapers, plastic bottles, and kitchen and garden waste? Can it make money? The Bantarjati school cooking oil waste converted to biofuel is an example.

C. Project criteria

  1. For an appropriate climate project, the project should concern a real climate issue, preferably an actual local situation.
  2. Project offers a climate solution. State the issue, the impact, and the suggested solution if feasible.
  3. State the approach category. Does the project use a mitigation or adaptation approach?
  4. Teachers and students participate.
  5. Local material and tools are used at low cost.
  6.  Project is original, doable and replicable. Original means new, innovative, creative. The cooking oil waste collection in Bantarjati and purple yam ice cream making in Cisalopa fit this description. Other schools can do this too.
  7. Project is beneficial and can generate income. Bantarjati and Cisalopa are examples.

D. Project description

  1. Describe the project in typewritten English, spaced in 1.5 lines, in three A4-size pages. Use Times New Roman 12-point type.
  2. Use photographs and other helpful illustrations.
  3. Give the name and address of the school, and the names of the participating teachers and students.
  4. Explain the core information of the project as follows:
  1. Name of project
  2. Approach category (adaptation or mitigation approach, or both)
  3. Statement of issue, impact, proposed solution
  4. Narrative of how project works that answers the following:
  5. Does it use local material and tools? How much does it cost?
  6. Is the project original, doable and replicable?
  7. Can the project benefit people and generate income for the school?
  8. Impact. Does the project have a positive impact? Do teachers, students, parents,and  perhaps other schools, like it and may want to replicate it?
  9. What next? What does the school expect to do after this project?

E. Specimen project description

  1. School Climate Project, October 31 2013
  2. Name of School: SMA Lapangan Iklim, Kota Langitan
  3. Names of Participating Teachers: A, B, and C
  4. Names of Participating Students: Names and grades of students
  5. Name of project: Making climate messages on T-shirts
  6. Approach category: This project is an ideas exercise. Based on material use, placing the project in a mitigation or adaptaion category is non-applicable. However, the messages that project participants write contain mitigation and adaptation applications.
  7. Issue: People know little about climate change
  8. Impact: Lack of knowledge about climate change makes people unaware and
    unconcerned about the consequences of climate change.
  9. Solution: Make people aware with short, smart messages on adaptation and mitigation
    printed on T-shirts.

How the project works: Teachers give a talk to students on the basics on climate change. They explain why climate change is important for people to understand and be aware of. Students are then asked to write snappy messages maximum 8 words. The message can be factual, funny, tough, inspirational. The end result is that the message can make readers of the message concerned and possibly motivate them to act. The messages are collected and evaluated by the teachers for strong communication impact. The best 10 messages are considered for print on T-shirts. These 10 messages are: (present the list).

Local material: No local, physical material is used except for ink, paper, magic markers and computer equipment. No local cost is incurred to make ideas. Production costs will be calculated, however, when the T-shirts are made.
Originality The idea to make T-shirts with a climate message is not new. Groups and organizations that advocate climate change awareness have made such T-shirts. These groups include WWF Indonesia when it organizes Earth Hour every March, the Climate Reality Project of Al Gore, and the DNPI when it holds its annual Climate Expo. This
project however is doable and replicable. It is easy to do. Other schools and other people can do it too.

Benefit The project benefits people who need to know about climate change. The school can make money from selling T-shirts. They can be sold to students, school staff, alumni, and the public. Earnings go to a green fund to support the school’s climate awareness activities.

Impact Teachers and children from other schools have seen this school’s T-shirt designs. Some have declared their intent to make similar T-shirts in their school.

What’s next The school plans to do two things. One, produce more T-shirts to promote public awareness. Students have creative ideas. More bright and bold messages with impact can be made. Participate in environment expos and school fairs to sell the T-shirts.Two, with money earned from the T-shirt sale, the school will organize field trips that can expand the knowledge base of students.