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A woman wearing a large rucksack and holding a cardboard sign with a whale painted on it. She is standing up to her waist in the sea and has a concerned expression

News: Climate-conscious theatre performance tours Scottish schools

Posted 22 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson. Photo credit: Andrew Perry

Activism and the climate crisis is the focus of 'Maya and The Whale', a new theatre production touring Scottish schools in February and March.

Aimed at upper primary and lower secondary classes, Maya and The Whale follows a young climate activist who comes face-to-face with a dying whale.

Creator Hazel Darwin-Clements plays Maya the teenage activist while the school audience takes on the role of the whale, creating an interactive experience for pupils. 

First shared during COP26, the play is a response to the youth climate strikes and explores activism and the climate crisis as experienced by young people. 

The creators are also providing schools with learning resources and contacts for local projects to encourage them to continue discussions on and engagement with climate resilience after the performance. 

The play is suitable for P6-7 and S1-2 and performances are taking place in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Lothians until Friday 3 March, before the show tours more widely across Scotland until the end of March.

Produced by Theatre in Schools Scotland – the schools touring project managed by National Theatre of Scotland and Imaginate, the show is created and performed by Hazel Darwin-Clements with live music from Nik Paget-Tomlinson.

Climate-minded touring

The climate crisis is a central theme of Hazel Darwin-Clements' work, prompting her to develop a more sustainable way of touring her theatre performances.

All props and costumes for the show have been borrowed or bought second-hand with consideration of ethical supply chains and product longevity.

The performer and accompanying musician are also travelling to schools exclusively by e-bike and public transport, and the play was written to be performed without a stage set or lighting so that time usually spent in set-up can be given to longer travel times, and equipment doesn't need transportation.

Everything for the performance is small and light enough to fit in bike panniers or a backpack.

The company is also booking dates in Scotland with travel and distance in mind, to reduce the tour's carbon impact.

Early reviews

Having started its tour on Monday, Corstorphine Primary School in Edinburgh has been one of the first to see Maya and the Whale.

"I thought it was amazing how the actor told the story using all the different characters!", one P5 pupil said.

While Tanya McLaughlin, a teacher at the school, said:

"The show deepens the impact of the curriculum and the children's learning about climate change and its impact on the world in an engaging, entertaining way.

"It captured the imagination of all the children and allowed them to access their learning out of the classroom."

Click here to learn more about Maya and the Whale


Photo of the Riverside Museum with a blue sky in the background. The building's visible wall is entirely glass, with a jagged metal framework outline.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow

News: Pupils challenged to design new ways of tackling Clyde sea litter

Posted 27 September, 2022 by Nina Joynson. Image: Ronnie Macdonald, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

West of Scotland school pupils have been tasked with engineering new and innovative ways of reducing sea litter in and around the River Clyde.

The STEM the Flow campaign asks young people to tackle the issue of Source to Sea litter through an engineering-based design challenge. 

Open to pupils from Primary 6 to S3 in the eight local authorities that comprise the West Partnership, teams can choose to look at ways of collecting litter that is already in the Clyde, or ways of preventing it from entering waterways in the first place. 

Marine pollution

It's estimated that over 12.7 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the sea annually, impacting our own food and air quality and threatening native habitats and killing wildlife. Sea litter also contributes to climate change, with greater production of greenhouse gases due to damaged ecosystems.

Led by Keep Scotland Beautiful, young people are encouraged to investigate the issue in their school grounds or local area and collect evidence to inform their solutions. 

The challenge is open from October 2022 until February 2023, when teams will be invited to showcase their projects at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum for a judging panel and the general public.

Industry insights

STEM the Flow is supported by Scottish Water, BAE Systems and Jacobs Engineering, who will lead workshops and provide professional advice to the young people as they work on their projects. 

Jaimie Cunningham, STEM Development Officer, Glasgow City Council, said:

“STEM the Flow is a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to apply their engineering and problem solving skills to real life problems. They get to interact and work with STEM professionals and gain an insight into hitherto unknown careers in industry – helping them see that their opportunities and options in STEM really are innumerable.”

The challenge is part of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle initiative, which focuses on changing littering behaviours to reduce marine pollution. The initiative offers a catalogue of resources to build young people’s awareness of sea litter, with learning programmes for both educators and children. 

STEM the Flow is open to school pupils across East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.

Click here to learn more about STEM the Flow

Two children of school age r

News: New book addresses climate anxiety amongst children

Posted 28 June, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A new book aims to help children identify how making small changes at home, such as reducing single use plastic, can help the environment as research reveals three in five are concerned about the impact of plastic pollution.

The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter is designed to raise awareness of the vital role of whales as climate allies and how preserving the whale population will help address some of the ongoing environmental issues.

The book has been commissioned by water filtration experts BRITA after its research revealed after more than two thirds of the children surveyed (70%) said they were worried about the future of the planet, with specific mention of the damage done by plastic pollution.

The research also revealed:

  • Three in five (60%) children and young people are concerned about the lasting damage single-use plastic pollution is having on sea animals
  • More than half (54%) of children said dumping waste into our waters was one of the most harmful behaviours for the planet
  • More than half (57%) of the children said they have found plastic bags when visiting the beach. Plastic bottles (57%) and food packaging (48%) were also found
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of children think the damage will become irreparable between five and 20 years from now
  • More than two in five (48%) believe that better protection of animals and plants in the sea will be key to help save the planet.

The Whale Watchers is the second environmentally-themed book from author and former popstar Dougie Poynter after his 2019 bestseller Plastic Sucks! How YOU Can Reduce Single-Use Plastic and Save Our Planet.

The book, aimed at 7-11 year olds, will raise money for BRITA's charity partner, Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

The Whale Watchers, by Dougie Poynter, will be available from 7 July, 2022. Published by Owlet Press

Close-up of two footprints in sand, with grass growing from the print
Image: Village Footprint, Shilpi Kumari

News: Carbon footprint is focus of new digital art installation

Posted 3 November, 2021 by Nina Joynson

A digital art installation project asking children and adults in Scotland and India to ‘bare their sole’ has gone live in time for COP26, reflecting on lived experiences of climate change.

The National Theatre of Scotland has collaborated with ThinkArts, a Kolkata-based children’s arts engagement organisation, to explore lived experiences of climate change through art, science and digital technology.  

Bringing together leading Scottish and Indian artists and scientists with participants of all ages in both countries, the collaboration has culminated in an interactive digital art installation: Millipede – the shoe shop that doesn’t cost the earth (click here to explore). The exhibition launched on 1 November to coincide with the beginning of COP26, with virtual exhibits in a variety of media showing participants’ responses to climate change and their own carbon footprints. Disguised as an online shoe shop, ‘customers’ can browse the footwear with the price displayed in earth terms. 

School and community groups in India and Scotland got involved to craft their ideas, with the website showing one hundred shoes along with their context and price. The designs are paired with analysis from scientists and experts on climate change at Edinburgh Science (Scotland) and Science Gallery Bengaluru (India) to examine the materials, lifecycle, and footprint that each shoe will leave.  

The project has brought young participants into discussions of climate change in an artistic context, encouraging conversation around these serious ideas through a playful medium. 

A live event will take place on 6 and 7 November at the Landing Hub in Glasgow with two of the contributing artists, Sarah Rose Graber and Ruxy Cantir, hoping to encourage would-be shoe shoppers to think differently about their carbon footprints.  

Lead artists and award-winning Scottish theatre makers Shona Reppe and Andy Manley said:  

“Our aim is to encourage people to stop and think about their carbon footprints without lecturing or chastising. It has been a joy to curate these personal, thoughtful and fantastically creative contributions. Hopefully this will be the first step for many in addressing what we have to do to protect our planet.” 

Millipede  is supported by the British Council's  Creative Commissions (click here to accessprogramme, a series of creative commissions exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology as part of  The Climate Connection (click here to access global initiative. 

Wind turbines on green fields, with a large blue sky with clouds above them.

News: COP26 brings opportunities for young people to get involved

Posted 27 October, 2021 by Nina Joynson

The spotlight is on the climate emergency as COP26 approaches, and recent reports provide evidence for the crisis’ impact on children, highlighting the importance of engaging young people in climate action

With Glasgow soon to play host to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), conversations throughout Scotland are focused on the climate emergency, while recently published reports demonstrate that the crisis is inextricably linked to children’s rights.  

In an August report, UNICEF introduced the Children’s Climate Risk Index to provide insight into the climate risk from a child’s perspective and the specific vulnerabilities faced by young people to events resulting from climate change. Soon after, Save the Children published Born into the Climate Crisis, a report outlining the intergenerational impact of climate change and its infringement on children’s rights. 

The report calls for the recognition of children as equal stakeholders and principal key agents of change, with child-friendly mechanisms and platforms necessary to facilitate formal engagement in climate policy.  

The research published by both organisations shows that children have contributed the least to climate change but stand to lose the most, and those in low- and middle-income countries face the greatest consequences of environmental damage.  

With COP26 comes a meaningful avenue for the inclusion of children and young people's voices and views.

The Conference of Youth (COY16) takes place from 28 to 31 October, preparing young people for participation in COP26 and giving them a voice in the climate negotiations of the Conference. COP26 itself offers teaching materials to discuss climate change in the classroom, with the ambition of engaging young people in discussions on the climate emergency from an early age.  

The Conference also brings opportunities for children in Glasgow to get involved directly with matters of sustainability and the environment.

To form a ‘living legacy’ of COP26, eight Wee Forests will be planted in Glasgow spaces, led by Earthwatch and NatureScot. On land donated by Glasgow City Council, each forest will include 600 densely packed native trees that will become home to over 500 plant and animal species in its first three years. 

The project provides rich opportunities for young people to engage with the environment, improving access to green spaces in the city. These new spaces offer children a place to play, and equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to protect the environment and inspire climate action. 

The Wee Forests will have lasting connections with children in Glasgow, as Earthwatch plans to involve young people in collecting scientific data to assess the forests’ environmental benefits and their impact on the wellbeing of people in the local area.  

With COP26 just around the corner, engaging young people in climate emergency discussions and negotiations is instrumental to their future, and the Conference brings with it a wealth of opportunities to galvanise a young generation towards action. 

Click here to read UNICEF’s report  

Click here to read Save the Children’s report  

Click here to explore teaching materials from COP26