As a surveyor engaged in the measurement of many school buildings and grounds, Alison Watson was inspired by the enthusiasm and curiosity demonstrated by the many children and young people she encountered. Surveying, as with many construction related professions, represents applied learning. Children who found traditional classroom based learning restrictive and even pointless were suddenly enthusiastic about subjects such as trigonometry and geography.
Realising the mutual benefit for business and education to work together, Alison brought together a group of like-minded, socially orientated professionals including architect Dan Gibson and sustainability & social media advocate Martin Brown from Fairsnape to form 'Class Of Your Own’, all determined to take real life experiences and opportunities right into the classroom.
Sustainability is a key feature of the Class Of Your Own series of collaborative programmes. We are enabling children and young people to liberate their skills, their imagination and their potential, and to recognise the impact they can have on the wider world. As ‘good citizens’ they can make positive contributions to their local, national and even global society simply by making educated choices in the way they live their lives and consequently, sustainable thinking for future generations becomes a way of life and not a series of targets and tick boxes.
By developing their natural interest in their own environments, Class Of Your Own programmes empower young people to lead on sustainability projects and assignments which can influence business strategy and promote genuinely accountable corporate social responsibility.
Young people are taking responsibility for sustainable practice in their own schools. They are helping local businesses to promote sustainability in the boardroom and the shop floor. They are designing and project managing virtual and real life eco classrooms in which to educate their peers and their communities. They are educating their own families to recognise the impact of globalisation on the environment.
At Class Of Your Own, we firmly believe that young people have an exciting part to play in a new society of sustainable communities. As the workforce of tomorrow, we are giving them the attention they deserve today.
classofyourown®, a small private company based in Lancashire, UK, was established in May 2009. Led by Architect Dan Gibson and Land Surveyor Alison Watson, the classofyourown®team brings extensive experience in private and public sector construction projects to provide authentic workshop activities bringing “the sustainable classroom” to life.
Through our workshops, students establish their own company and adopt roles of construction industry professionals in order to undertake the design, management and marketing of a sustainable building project. Our research into the fundamental principles of sustainability ensures that students have a broad understanding of the use of materials, renewable energies and the supply chain.
The design of the sustainable classroom is influenced by the learner’s individual learning styles and imagination. Learners can set their own standards and take responsibility for the decisions they make. The design day is intense. Young people are natural collaborators and the workshop platform has generated some amazing results. Through effective participation, learners demonstrate their understanding of environmental issues and sustainability through their wonderful creations. Noteworthy is their acceptance that tolerance, empathy and teamwork play an enormous part in the overall success of a project - all essential qualities for life.
In May 2008, OFSTED published their findings regarding schools and their ‘inadequate’ delivery of sustainability, and so far, our research supports evidence that secondary schools in particular have little understanding of the Department for Children, Schools And Families’ Sustainable Schools initiative. Through classofyourown® workshops, students can understand each of the ‘Eight Doorways’ through applied learning and their own individual and group research. This programme also involves communication, delegation and presentation skills.
The introduction of Diplomas, and certainly the Construction and Built Environment Diploma, left many young people and parents confused. The very word ‘diploma’ has historically been associated with study towards traditional trades rather than professions. We asked young people what career they might choose if they pursued the CBE Diploma, and mostly they answered ‘builders’ or ‘bricklayers’. As professionals and entrepreneurs, we are very keen that young people see the built environment as a challenging and exciting subject leading to technical careers in architecture, civil and structural engineering and management careers, accounting, planning and law, to mention but a few.
classofyourown® demonstrates this spectrum of career possibilities by providing a real project where students can be actively involved in decision making, policy writing, planning and management. Learners will understand that buildings are not created as if ‘by magic’ behind building site hoardings. An enormous amount of work is required before, during and after a new school building, for example, is built. It is hoped that the introduction of real life professional role models throughout the school term will inspire and motivate young people of all abilities and genders. The timing couldn’t be better – in our opinion, our workshops can complement the school BSF journey. Feedback from one workshop session demonstrated that students could engage more dynamically with BSF design team members and had a better understanding of sustainability. Learners had the opportunity to quiz architects as to their own principles!
classofyourown® acknowledge that young people have different ways of learning. Our workshops provide an opportunity to engage children and their communities with green issues by encouraging their natural interest in their own education environment. The forming of their own ethical design company to create a sustainable school project promotes collaboration, ownership and the real life application of functional skills.
classofyourown® aims to:
- Involve schools, their families and communities in ‘real life’ projects
- Support the Sustainable Schools Framework and promote sustainable living at home
- Support and encourage Functional Skills through experiential learning opportunities
- Support PLTS and SEAL Learning Objectives
- Promote community cohesion
- Enhance and support Diplomas, for example in Construction and the Built Environment, Environmental and Land Based Studies, Engineering, Business Studies and ICT.
- Enhance knowledge of occupational currency required in the vocational sector
- Provide a potential training platform for college students and apprentices
- Provide a platform to include Prince’s Trust volunteers
- Provide an authentic work related programme for young people who are not in education, employment or training schemes (NEETS)
- Provide access to a like-minded, countrywide team of multi- disciplinary architects with genuine social and environmental interests
- Provide a potential platform for learning within the BSF and PCP4 frameworks.
An Eco Classroom as a ‘whole school’ unique demonstration model demands the same sustainability design and maintenance considerations at a scale which all stakeholders can relate to.
The classofyourown® model demonstrates a unique environmental learning platform where learners can consider the use of renewable energy and local, responsibly sourced materials, and furthermore, how the building can clearly and comprehensively promote the benefits of sustainable living to the wider community.
classofyourown® have a vision that young learners from schools across the nation and indeed throughout the world should have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other.
At classofyourown®, we are neither looking to tick education and environment boxes nor pay lip service to existing initiatives where student consultation is cursory; we want to create real experiences and give young people the confidence and opportunity to express themselves regardless of their academic ability. Not only that, we want to encourage young people to talk to each other, compare notes, make suggestions...
Starting with our pilot project at Accrington Academy, we are aiming to establish a national network of school building projects that are conceived, designed and procured by students through participation in focused workshops assisted by industry professionals.
Every project will be linked through a digital platform that enables students to share ideas, collaborate and exchange experiences on a regional, national and potentially international level. As this network grows, their projects, whether actual or virtual, will form the basis of a forum within which to learn about sustainability whilst promoting the student voice, personal and environmental responsibility, career opportunities and community cohesion. Projects will be of a scale necessary to ensure students and their community can assume ownership and control, yet of a complexity that provides a high standard of cross curricular learning and teaching opportunities that can be incorporated across the entire school timetable.
We believe that user generated views are critical to the success of the platform and so engaged young learners (age 11 to 16) from Abraham Moss High School, Greater Manchester, to let us know what makes them tick. The opportunity to evolve a model web platform with learners promoted valuable comments and ideas from a cross section of today’s savvy young technophiles, and we hope this will ensure its longevity both in the curriculum and at home. Most of all, the classofyourown ® web will allow young people to LEARN FROM EACHOTHER and change the world which they will inherit.
It was important to engage a really forward thinking school to demonstrate the benefits to staff and students of the Class Of Your Own series of pupil engagement workshops.
The classofyourown® workshop programme allows the learner to choose a preferred subject or discipline, and make informed decisions about how he will achieve his targets in ways to support his individual learning style. This freedom of choice of activities encompasses Personal Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS), Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) and Citizenship Issues. There are excellent opportunities to develop all these skills, in particular the roles of Team Worker and Effective Participator, with much scope to promote further class based discussion, extended projects and community activities.
classofyourown® workshops result in positive emotional effects – students of all attitudes and ability mixing seamlessly together. We have documented feedback reporting increased confidence and self-esteem, and a sense of personal and community focussed purpose. Students quote their feeling of ‘saving the planet’, and whilst we cannot profess to changing the world overnight, we believe we are having a measurable impact on their attitude to climate change and taking responsibility for it.
There are so many examples which I could offer to demonstrate the benefits seen in schools and in local government. Witnessing sheer unabulterated dismissiveness from some members of teaching staff prior to attending workshops changing to in depth discussion about sustainable timber procurement with students following one workshop; having a group of seven year old children sing out their message regarding palm oil and deforestation for a group of 400 business people and HRH Prince Charles following another workshop (and then a major buyer visiting them to discuss the alternatives); taking a group of students who knew nothing about sustainability before we came on the scene to enter an international (US) 'grown up' green design competition, seeing them win an award and wowing the audience......the side effects? Making me realise that the hard slog to get where we are was REALLY worth it. And seeing kids believe in themselves.
Class Of Your Own exists to give that vast part of the community - the kids, children, young people (whatever the bureaucrats want to call them these days), a voice. And not only a voice that ticks that "yes we listened for a pre-allocated amount of time, and gave them a coke too!" box, but also that "actually, these little people have a valid point more often than not" box. Let's face it, the kids take over from all of us oldies in a few years. They are the businessmen and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, so maybe we should be paying them a little more attention today. They're savvy with technology, hungry to learn new skills and genuinely keen to learn how to save their planet from the mess the adults are making for them. They have no preconceptions, no hidden agendas and my goodness, they are forthright and get on with stuff in a day which would take the older generations weeks or even months. They have an exciting part to play in this big society, armed with fresh new ideas which are often amazing.
Andrew O'Brien for believing
Steve Crossley - my friend and mentor
Greg Marshall - ditto
Dan Gibson - my business partner and fielder of all my desperate emails
Martin Brown - Tweeter and bringer of great ideas for the future of COYO