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Interview with a UK Environmental Education Initiative

By: Ava H.

Climate Change All Change (CCAC) helps students in the UK collaborate with designers to co-design solutions to the climate crisis. The students gain valuable knowledge on various climate concepts, and the designers gain a renewed sense of purpose from this ambitious young minds. I had the chance to interview architect and environmentalist David Lloyd Jones about this amazing organization he co-founded.

London children design futuristic school buildings for UN Climate Summit.

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How did the idea for Climate Change All Change come about?

It came about because we know children are hugely anxious and angry about the climate situation. As designers and educationalists we wanted to do something concrete and creative as a response to the climate crisis.

The idea started life as an exhibition proposal in 2012. It was to cover the way creative design ideas could mitigate the impacts of climate change and celebrate the measures needed to overcome its effects. It arose from my work at the forefront of sustainable building design. I approached the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London with the idea.

Other work overtook it. It was picked up again in 2019 with DaeWha and Kimberly coming on board and we formed Climate Change All Change (CCAC). By then the child’s perspective had become a major factor. They, after all, were going to be most affected by the climate change impacts. The project expanded into three clear phases: a children / designer co-design collaboration; a major exhibition of the results set within a climate crisis context; and a subsequent world-wide scale-up of the project. The V&A encouraged us in this view and holds out the prospect of a major exhibition at the Museum of Childhood when the co-design phase is complete and when the Museum reopens following its current major revamp.

Woodland Expedition.

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How is the pilot project focused on architectural design going? What are some of the biggest rewards? Biggest challenges?

It was clear that before launching the main programme we should run a full pilot project to test our co-design proposition. It would be fully monitored and professionally evaluated. The pilot took place over the first 3 months of 2020 and was luckily complete just prior to the first COVID 19 lockdown. The children were the 2 Year 5 classes (9 – 10 year olds) at William Tyndale Primary School; the architects, DaeWha Kang Design.

For me it was a complete revelation; my school days are long gone. The interaction between teachers, designers and school children was invigorating – a real sense of each party learning from the others – not just one-way traffic with the teacher lecturing and children being passive recipients. The teachers needed to familiarize themselves with background climate science, the specific ecological and environmental damage being inflicted by humanity, and the measures needed to avoid a climate catastrophe, none of which are included in the current primary school curriculum. The designers came away with the insights and imagination of the children inspiring them to translate their proposals into extraordinary visions of what their schools might be in 30 year’s time.

A particular reward for the children was to see their early tentative ideas expanded by the designers and then developed into something that was unimaginable at the outset of the collaboration, a radical setting which their own children might attend. Anxiety concerning their predicament confronted with accelerating climate change are tempered by the knowledge that, given imagination and skills, something can be done. Rather than a cause of trepidation it becomes a landscape for adventure.

By comparison, the challenges in setting up the pilot were minor. Our challenge now is to expand it into the main project: 7 designers, 7 disciplines, 7 schools and a major revelatory exhibition. We are well on our way, but we need to recruit the designers, find the schools, plan the exhibition, and raise the funds.

Students presenting their designs to teachers and architects.

Taken before the pandemic.

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What has it been like so far using your teaching resources in classrooms?

There are 2 categories of teaching resources, those that address climate science and the consequences of climate disruption and those elucidating the design discipline and its response to the issues of environment and sustainability. The first is common to all the co-design collaborations. The second category is particular to the design discipline and has to be developed by the invited designers. However, each designer will draw from a common pool: where do the materials originate? What and how much energy is used to manufacture and transport them? What is the potential for recycling and reuse? How are the products procured and marketed? How can the use of environmental constraints stimulate originality and flare? The designers also have to explain their design approach and what they set out to achieve.

Teachers have very little time for research. We provided descriptive information and links to available and reliable online resources (e.g. NASA, Oxfam) for the first category of resource. We now need to provide resources for direct use in the classroom. The second category of resource, those used to inform and assist the children’s architectural designs, were formulated as we progressed with the pilot – worksheets summarizing the results of research; worksheets setting out scenarios with a choice of climatic condition, and worksheets for developing the designs. These turned out well and will be refined as examples for the designers to use at the next stage.

Desert School sketch created by London students.

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What are some of the designs chosen by professional designers to make into actual architectural designs?

The designers and review panel selected four pioneering school proposals for technical and graphic development:

  • Woodland Expedition School set in a hot dry forested zone in a ziggurat form

  • Desert School set in a hot, dry climate featuring sail-like wind catchers

  • Bridge Town School set in a hot tropical and flooded Islington featuring a central atrium criss-crossed with rope bridges

  • Bubble School also set in a flooded Islington, but featuring floating central school dome surrounded by upgradeable satellite plug-in domes

The visualization of the Desert School was taken a step further and developed by visual effects specialists as a virtual landscape. The schemes will go on display along with all the pilot work at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival later this year. In the meantime, it can all be seen on the CCAC website - including the film of the pilot by Walter Finch and an in-depth evaluation by the UK Open University.

Desert School


Is your program only in UK schools? If yes, have you thought about bringing your education resources to schools in the US? If your program is already in the US, what schools are using your materials?

Our initial rollout covering 7 schools is confined to the UK and the follow-on exhibition will also be in the UK. However, our plan is to build on the experience and feedback of the introductory programme and launch it globally, including the US. We also hope that the exhibition will travel to other countries. We appreciate conditions in other countries may be very different to here in the UK. We will find a balance between scaling up the programme and support for local adaptation.

Bridge Town.

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Have you thought about expanding your program to older students or are you only planning to continue with primary school students?

Finding a suitable age group for our project has been quite complex. The minds of, 9 – 10 year old children (Year 5 in the UK), are still “plastic”, receptive to ideas and are not yet channelled into prescriptive thinking, but sufficiently developed to take on board relatively complex scenarios. In the UK this is the penultimate year prior to leaving primary school to start at secondary school and is, therefore, free from associated examinations and assessments and therefore more able to undertake an open-ended creative and cross-curricular project. Year 5 seemed to be the window of opportunity we were looking for and one that schools appear to be able to accommodate.

A similar programme could be developed for older children with teaching resources to suit their situation, but, so far, we have not considered this in detail.

How has COVID-19 affected your initiatives, including your upcoming exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood?

We were fortunate to complete the pilot prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. However, it did knock out the follow-on display of the work at The Museum of Childhood scheduled for May 2020. The display sets all the children’s designs, including the four amplified schemes in a star chamber version of the cosmos. A simulated fly-though of the display can be found on our website. The actual display is to be relocated to the V&A at South Kensington in September and will form part of the London Design Festival. The V&A has entered into a partnership with COP 26, the international Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, of which the display will be a contribution.

Although the forthcoming co-design programme will not commence until the end of this year, COVID 19 is likely to have an impact on how we run it. The pilot co-design took place with the designers visiting the classrooms. The pandemic has introduced online teaching much more extensively. While we do not want to lose the immediacy and spontaneity of classroom collaboration, some liaison might take place online, including visits by the children to the design studios and manufacturing / assembly sites. An advantage of online work is that it allows widespread geographical distribution between school and designer.

What advice would you give to others who also want to help improve environmental education?

Studies show there is considerable anxiety amongst school children who hear tales of apocalyptic consequences of climate disruption and little of the possibilities of overcoming them. I know from personal experience how anxiety can build up and seriously affect a child’s outlook and wellbeing. A knowledge of the background science and a full understanding of the issues, together with a proactive approach to addressing them is essential to assuage their concern.

At the moment climate science, sustainable practice, energy sourcing, biodiversity and ecological harmony are peripheral topics at school. They need to be drawn into the mainstream. Children need to be taught how humankind should work together with nature, not regard it as something that must be tamed or suppressed.

A school curriculum conceived with the study of the natural environment set at its heart, with conventional subjects of science, technology, mathematics, human sciences, languages and the arts as subsets, accessed from the perspective of the impact on, interaction with and celebration of nature, would rebalance our approach to learning and ensure an equipoise between human endeavor and environmental wellbeing.

Students working together on a design project. Taken before the pandemic.

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What are some of your dreams regarding the future of Climate Change All Change?

Our abiding dream is to play some small part in marshaling efforts to confront the issues of climate change. Greta Thunberg in desperation raised a child’s cri de coeur. She gave her childhood to the cause and now is no longer a child. The fire of indignation that she ignited in young people around the world can now be harnessed and directed to conceive, illustrate and implement radical solutions. We are placing CCAC in a position to promote and guide this vital constructive stage.

How can our readers support your environmental initiatives?

At the moment our focus is on the UK. We are currently looking for exceptional designers in the following fields:

  • Urbanism

  • Architecture

  • Product design

  • Ruralism

  • Transport

  • Clothing

  • Graphics

Comment on the list and suggestions for imaginative, outgoing, environmentally conscious designers would be most welcome.

We are, of course, in search of funding and sponsorship. We need approximately £30,000 to mount the pilot display at the V&A and approximately £200,000 for the co-design collaboration. The later, larger exhibition will need another sizable sum. Suggestions and help here would also be much appreciated.

Otherwise, we look for constructive comments, links to other like minded organizations and individuals, and thoughts for the future scaling up of CCAC.

Thank you David for partaking in this interview, we wish you the best of luck in your future environmental education endeavors!


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