1. Focus on the local environment

Learning about some of the complex concepts about the environment needs you as the teacher to break down the ideas into smaller parts and build up the picture in a logical way. Pupils find this easier if you take think about the ideas they already have and you use the local environment to show them how these ideas relate to their situation.

There are many ways to do this. This first part of the section focuses on gathering information from your pupils’ own experiences to explore the concepts and their own responsibilities and rights.

Case Study 1: Researching local water use

Mrs Namhlane in Nigeria was starting a topic on the local environment with her large Primary 2 class, looking at the importance of water in everyone’s life.

To stimulate her pupils’ interest in the topic, she decided to set up a class research project. First, she asked them to get into groups of six to eight people who lived in the same part of the community and told them that there were three people coming into school next day – one from each part of the community – to talk about how they got and used water. She asked them to think about and write down questions to ask. These area groups shared their questions together so that each area group could check they had thought about all aspects.

The next day, each visitor talked, either in the classroom or outside under a tree, with pupils from their area. The groups asked their questions in different ways – in one group different pupils asked one question each, in another group a girl and a boy asked all the questions and the others took notes.

After the visit, pupils were asked to list three important things they had found out and report to the whole class. Mrs Namhlane asked each group in turn to tell what they had found out but not to repeat any answer already recorded on the board.

They then discussed the problems that there were about water and thought of possible solutions (see Resource 1: Problems of getting water).

Activity 1: Keeping a ‘water diary’

Ask your pupils to keep a ‘water diary’ for one week. They will record (perhaps on a wall chart) how much water they use and what they use it for (see Resource 2: Water usage diary for a possible template).

After a week, ask them to work in groups and to list all the uses in their group and then put them in the order of which activities use most water and which use least. Display each list on the wall and allow them to read each other’s lists before having a final session together discussing the issues about water in their area.

You may want to consider questions like: Where does our water come from? Does everyone have access to water? Is our water clean and safe? How could our water services be improved? How can we help?

You could also link this activity to number work (by looking at the data – the amount of water used), to science (why water is essential to life) and to social studies (the problems of providing water in some parts of Africa).

Section 4 : Exploring the environment

2. Using stories to explore environmental issues