In November, we were pleased to share an insight into how our Sustainability Project Leader has called for school curriculums to embed sustainability and climate education into everyday classroom learning - from looking at green campaigns in English to exploring rainfall patterns in mathematics.
We must also visibly demonstrate sustainable practice to our students, giving them a model that they can take into their adult lives. As a school, we have an opportunity to extend this to our very campus - our building, our facilities, and the memberships and accreditation awards that remind us of our commitment to a greener future. We also recognise the priority that the climate crisis should take through our timetable options: we are, as far as we know, the only school to teach Environmental Science as a fourth science next to Biology, Chemistry, and Physics all through secondary school.
Sustainable Buildings and Facilities
The climate crisis has demonstrated the importance of working with one another as we seek to preserve our shared world. We’re working with West London Synagogue - the world’s first Eco Synagogue - to develop a green roof space.
Our choice of materials for regular building maintenance has too been taken with a careful review of sustainability implications. In 2018, we opted to use Airlite to repaint our building: a paint that reduces air pollution and has a lower environmental impact in terms of shipping and production than any other traditional paint. We have replaced a large stretch of our reception walls with a living ‘green wall’: a structure covered with vegetation that aims to contribute to a reduction in our city’s overall temperature. We are also currently welcoming an audit from Re-Energise to identify any further possible areas of improvement.
The services that our students enjoy both at and on their way to school are also a part of their climate education: are we endeavouring to teach young people to take conscious, careful decisions about their transportation and consumption habits, for example? Halcyon London International School made a conscious decision to ask students to use public transport, cycle, walk, or find another way to school, rather than putting a bus service in place. Students receive Bikeability safety training and as members of TfL stars have been engaged in many campaigns to promote behaviour changes that limit air pollution. As well as teaching students that they should make conscious choices about their lifestyle, this encourages them to develop the self-management and evaluation skills that will enable them to thrive at school.
We show students how to reduce the carbon footprint of their food by delivering entirely vegetarian catering. This is possible through having a talented in-house catering team, who, by making 95% of their dishes from scratch, also have the opportunity to be selective about where they source their ingredients. Our Catering Manager, Jacqueline Williamson, explained that exposing students to a range of protein-packed, tasty, and healthy vegetarian dishes will provide an inspiring blueprint for recipes long after they leave school.
Memberships and Awards
We also give our students opportunities to engage with sustainability outside of school. We are members of TfL Stars and LSEN: two networks that pioneer school-led action in local communities and encourage young people to take initiative to lead and organise sustainability projects.
Halcyon’s Eco Committee holds the Eco-Schools Green Flag award, a recognition of their excellent management of school community sustainability projects and a testament to our students’ thoughtful approach to their local environment.
Sustainability Subject Offering
We are, as far as we know, the only IB school to teach Environmental Science as a separate subject pre-Diploma Programme. In the middle years programme, students take a unit of environmental science every year alongside Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses. In Grade 10, students can opt to take Environmental Science as their science option (they may also take a further science), which will prepare them well for taking Environmental Systems and Societies in the Diploma Programme. Concern for the environment extends into extracurricular offerings - our active Eco Committee members act as student leaders on sustainability and we are one of very few schools to offer a Natural History exploration, where students keep a nature journal through which they learn to identify and appreciate the wildlife around them.
A greener approach to classroom learning
Through all of the above commitments to sustainability at Halcyon, we aim to create an environment where sustainability is not an afterthought: it is embedded into the fabric of learning. Of course, our curriculum sits at the heart of this, and through ‘green seasoning’ our curriculum with references to how students can use their literacy, numeracy, debate, and other skills to make a positive impact, we are delivering a (climate) education that makes a difference.
Every week at Halcyon, we find new ways of encouraging our students to apply their skills to problem-solving in the future that awaits them. In Visual Arts, for example, our Grade 10 Visual Artists have been commissioned by West London Synagogue to create murals based on nature for a roof garden on our shared building, inspired by the idea of encouraging visitors to think about their connection to nature and its importance in urban spaces. In Economics, students from the same grade explored the concept of ‘doughnut economics’ - a model of sustainable and equitable development suggested as a possible solution to economic malaise on local and global scales. Our teachers receive termly training to develop their pedagogical and scientific understanding of sustainability and additionally conduct an annual curriculum review to identify further ways to add some ‘green seasoning’ to their lessons.
The sky's the limit - and it is our organisational spirit of innovation and our mission of pioneering learning that brings us to explore new concepts in the classroom with our students on a daily basis.
Read more about our thoughts on sustainability in the curriculum below: