Having designed and hosted the first ever Sustainability Strand at the festival of Education at Wellington College in 2022, SEEd returned this year with our ‘Cabinet of Sustainability Curiosities’ exhibit, and to host a panel discussion on how the young changemaker programme can help students overcome eco-anxiety and hopelessness.

At the panel discussion, SEEd CEO Ann Finlayson asked teachers and headteachers to speak about why and how they will be running the SEEd Young Changemaker programme with their students this year. We also heard first hand from Young Changemaker alumni Keira about her experience of taking part in the programme during Covid. The panel also included 16 year-old Emily, Warwickshire Young Poet Laureate 2022/23, who brought along her Green Gallery project of young people’s nature photos and recited her beautiful nature poem for us, which you can find below.

Observations from staff at our stand

The SEEd team staffed our head-turning Cabinet of Sustainability Curiosities exhibit at the festival’s Sustainability Hub which sparked good discussions and interest in the SEEd approach.

Cathy: “The SEEd sustainability Cabinet of Curios created such a stimulating space for reflection and inquiry – not just the mirror, inviting us to think about our own contributions towards or away from a more sustainable world, but the many objects acting as a source for questions, discussion, making links and critical debate. That’s exactly where SEEd believes sustainability learning starts! A huge thanks to all the visitors and friends, old and new, over the festival, for your different perspectives, diversity of views, thoughtful conversations and laughter. And for braving the 40 odd degrees in the pavilion! Paddling pool next year anyone?”

Doug:The sun shone again on this year’s Festival of Education – which was great for the mood but not entirely so for the visitors to the SEEd stand. At times the temperature in the clear plastic roofed marquee topped an unhealthy 40 degrees – a truly immersive, if unwelcome, way to start a conversation about what climate and ecological catastrophe feels like! No matter. Over the two days everyone we met was energised and up for playing their part in the change yet to come. The Cabinet of Curios inspired again, there were many smiles and the air full of a tangible whiff of being on the brink of a shift in paradigm. It certainly felt that Now IS the time.”

Sarah:The conversations with delegates were great, especially as they realise the YCM programme offers a solid, tried and tested framework, and the flexibility to draw it into their institution in a way that suits them. One headteacher said “this could do my job for me”, another was excited by the opportunities that a competency-based programme offers to her students to achieve meaningfully in an environment where so often they struggle with grades and academics.

Lucinda: “Engaging with education professionals about the creative and dynamic ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ was energizing. It’s a truly marvellous resource for getting people of all ages from 8 – 80 thinking about sustainability. It spans so many different areas of being human in this world, like a one stop shop for sustainability thinking and education.”

Claudi: “Speaking to so many school representatives on the stall was inspiring – there is such interest in the topic of sustainability learning. Knowing that 80% of the attendees were from the state sector shows that this topic is truly on the agenda in the UK! I also enjoyed our hosted panel discussion and hearing the young people speak alongside teachers and school leaders about the importance of connecting to nature, connecting to people across the world on sustainability concerns and to hear why educators are choosing the SEEd action learning programme for their schools this year.

The Skylark’s first flight

What our hearts needed was this –

so we listened, we waited
for the first to rouse the landscape
with song, to become the sky
to rise on invisible columns
warbling, disappearing,
climbing, free-falling
even though it was winter
even though we were numb.
We shielded our eyes
searched for them
in the strengthening light

and the season turned – we saw seedlings rise
charmed like snakes by flute and whistle
fields turn from barren to green
shoots push through the expectant earth
and the crop grew dense around their nests
covered them, swaddled them
this year’s young woven into sculpted cups
but we knew as we walked among
the static blades that one would
give itself away – rustle its way
out and up, elevate us with its serenade
and summer days brought
cracking clay and gorse pods
splitting on the hill, as jackdaws
tumbled into sunsets

and we hoped they had fledged
when harvest came, the ground quaked
and dust rose thick as mist.
Such potential at our mercy
promise shattered by machinery –
but we waited, and walked
through all those songless months
hoping the next generation would rise,
carry us in its flight

By Emily Hunt

For more highlights, insights and photos from the Sustainability Strand, read the report by this year’s sponsor, Cambridge University Press & Assessment.