2. Using stories to explore environmental issues

Drawing is a useful way to explore pupils’ ideas about any topic. It allows them to show their ideas without having to speak aloud or be able to write. It is especially useful with young pupils and provides a way for them to talk about their ideas. The drawings do not have to be of a high standard but have to tell a story or show an idea.

Using stories is another way of encouraging pupils to think more deeply about a problem. It removes the focus from the individual and allows pupils to talk more openly. Stories can also provide a wider perspective for pupils and give them inspiration. Case Study 2 and Activity 2 show how you could use both techniques in your classroom.

Case Study 2: Stories and environmental issues

Mr Mathenge read Resource 3: The story of the selfish farmer to his class to stimulate their ideas about the Earth and its resources.

He then gave his pupils a small piece of paper and asked them to draw a picture of ‘why the farmer was selfish’.

He explained the idea carefully and encouraged them not to copy, but think of their own ideas. As the pupils finished, they stuck their pictures on the wall. Mr Mathenge asked some pupils to say what their drawings were about and he tried to guess what some were. The pupils enjoyed this very much.

Next, he led a discussion about how important it was for everyone to look after the land. They listed together on the board how people in the local community used the land and looked after it.

He then asked them some questions, which they discussed in groups. For example:

  • How did the people use the land?
  • Did they look after it?
  • In what ways could the farmer have looked after his land?
  • Who did the work?
  • Was the land productive? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • How could they improve the way they looked after the land?

More can be found in Resource 4: Questions concerning use of the land.

As a class, they thought about the questions and shared some ideas.

At the end of the day, Mr Mathenge asked the pupils to look on their way home at all the different ways the land was being used and to come back the next day with any that could be added to their list.

Activity 2: Leaders and the environment

This activity looks more widely at the importance of looking after our environment. Resource 5: Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement tells the story of a Kenyan woman who founded an environmental group. Read this before you plan your lesson.

  • Tell your class this story. On the wall have a number of words spelled out clearly, for example ‘heroine/hero’, ‘encroachment’.
  • After you have read the story, discuss these words and their meanings.
  • Ask your pupils, in pairs, to imagine themselves as someone like Wangari Maathai. What particular environmental issue would they like to do something about? How would they do this? Move around the class and ask pairs with good ideas to explain their ideas to the rest of the class.

Ask them to look closely at their local environment as they go home and see if there are other issues they had not noticed before and share these the next day. Make a list of their five favourite issues.

1. Focus on the local environment

3. Organising a campaign