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Centre for Integrated Energy Research

Martinique - C'est Fantastique!

“Science in Schools” is a programme in which researchers and scientists deliver workshops in English to French school children. After a successful application to the project, run by the British Council, months of planning ensued. Anticipating a journey across the English Channel, to Toulouse or maybe Boulogne, we were rather startled by the invitation we received to hop over the Atlantic to Martinique.

We developed a three hour long workshop to teach students about some of the problems facing the world as a result of climate change, as well as some ways to address them. Our workshop started with a brief outline of the effect carbon dioxide has on the global climate as well as the differences between the emissions in different countries. This was followed by four activities: pin the carbon footprint on the country, the trade game, energy efficiency top trumps and a quiz.

In the first activity, the class had to decide on the order of countries according to their carbon dioxide emissions. Half of the class did this in terms of total emissions, and the other half for ‘per capita’ emissions. They then had to stick carbon footprints on a big map, much akin to pinning a tail on the donkey. It was interesting to see how each group made their decisions, often yielding conflicting opinions between the different teams. Something that surprised the students, as well as many teachers, was the per capita ranking of Martinique above China, leading to discussions as to why this is the case.

For the trade game we split the class into six different countries, each having different resources. They had to negotiate for the required equipment so that they could build renewable energy plants for their country, either solar farms or wind farms, to reduce their country’s carbon footprint. It showed the students the scale of inequity between the countries, both in terms of resources and finances. Is this game fair? No. But it does show the difficulties faced by less developed countries due to distribution of resources and the tensions evident in climate change negotiations.

The energy efficiency top trumps game enabled us to discuss the ways that we as individuals can address the problem of climate change in our own homes. The classroom was full of cards being slammed down on tables as well as cheers and boos as they strove to collect all the cards. This game creates an accessible way to understand how our choices can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Handing the students a red and blue card to answer the questions for the final quiz created an interactive experience whilst demonstrating their level of understanding. In all schools, the quiz showed that students had embraced our workshop wholeheartedly with the students answering our questions on climate change and carbon dioxide in English, with a high level of success.

Throughout the week, we received a warm welcome and fantastic hospitality wherever we went. We were really impressed with the student’s ability to understand, discuss and argue complex ideas in a foreign language. The activities proved quite adaptable, and whatever the level of English comprehension, the session provided an introduction to the key ideas regarding climate change to the students. All of the schools gave us glowing feedback, both those visited in Martinique and in the UK prior to our transatlantic adventure, and we hope that they can continue to be used in our departmental outreach for years to come. After requests from the schools in Martinique, we hope that this experience will yield a longer relationship across the water.

Katrina Adam and Jennifer Norris, Low Carbon Technologies CDT students.