Form 7 Eco-Camp 2021

On Monday and Tuesday this week, Form 7 joined me for a two day camp. This allowed us to work through some of the environmental surveys required of us as part of our involvement in the British Council project linking Scottish and Nepalese schools, investigating the effects of climate change.

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We took readings of pH and temperature at the Tweed, surveyed lichen on trees beside the river for indications of air quality and collected particulates from the air to get an indication of pollution levels. We also collected and tallied the litter in Gibson park, finding that sweet wrappers are pretty much everywhere! This data will be added to a data set being collected from primary schools right across Scotland and throughout Nepal. A researcher in Edinburgh, Dr Alba Abad, will process the information collected and share our findings with the wider world at COP26 this autumn!

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Meeting with the Monastic School
The Monastic School in Janakpur, Nepal, joined us for a second meeting on Tuesday morning. All pupils had completed a qualitative survey of their grandparents’ generation, asking them if they have noticed the climate changing over the last 50 years. The results of these conversations were staggering. In the UK, there has been a significant change in the climate, warmer, wetter and less marked seasons. But there has also been an INCREASE in wildlife. All our older interviewees now see more animals and plants than when they were children. They also notice an increase in the health of their friends and neighbours.

The opposite was true for their Nepalese counterparts. The effects of climate change are more marked, the climate has changed to the point where many feel their country has areas that are uninhabitable. In Janakpur, the hot season can reach temperatures in excess of 45oC, too hot to go outside. They notice deforestation, reduction in fertile farmland, increased forced migration of people from rural areas and a significant decrease in air quality. They think people are less healthy and they do not like the use of chemicals for farming; they feel this decreases the nutritional value of their food.

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It was oddly shocking to hear, first hand, how dramatic climate change is affecting people you were actually having a conversation with – it was not just images on the television. Form 7 had a lot to think about after we said our farewells. We will meet again in the autumn.

As part of our St Mary’s rewilding project, spearheaded by the eco-committee and aiming to increase biodiversity on the school grounds, we surveyed the test patches under the trees beside the Hamilton and the grass area behind the Sanderson for invertebrates and plant species. We have not cut the grass there for several weeks and we wanted to see if this had had an impact. Even this small change to land management has seen a dramatic increase in species diversity. We recorded 5 times as many plant and invertebrate species in the unmown grass compared with the lawns.

The pupils then used the ICT suite to research the types of wild plants we would expect to find in Scottish woodlands and meadows. We have made a list of species we will add to these areas in the autumn, especially to provide early sources of nectar for insects who are waking up 3-4 weeks earlier as a result of climate change and finding themselves short of food.

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It was an extremely interesting two days and Form 7 were excellent young scientists throughout. I would like to thank Mr Rawson, Mrs Bruce, Miss Amado, Miss Simpson and Dr Morgan, who all spent time with us over the two days and facilitated much of the experimental work that went on.

Mrs Stuart

Jules Birdsall, 02/07/2021