What could you create from the items in the picture?
How could you use items like these to design models of sustainable buildings and spaces?
Last month we took part in the Your Green Future event at Solihull College again, a super event run by the charity Severn Wye Energy Agency , that was developed to address the following questions: What is sustainability in business and why is it important? Where are our skill shortages? Why are STEM subjects so crucial to our future and how do we encourage students to engage with them?
Your Green Future is an interactive event which engages hundreds of 11- to 18-year-olds with the role of sustainability in the economy and what this could mean for their future careers.
It does this through a series of creative workshops, which see students work with businesses to investigate genuine industry challenges and the role of STEM and sustainability in innovation, business, waste, energy and urban design.
I went to Your Green Future in Solihull on behalf of Solutions for the Planet, to run the workshop entitled ‘Your Future City’, which we had created for the event.
During each workshop, which was 70 minutes long and run 7 times over the 2-day event, around 30 students were split into 6 groups, each with a business mentor to guide them. Each group was tasked with developing a different area of Arden Cross, a site being developed around the future HS2 Interchange Station. They looked at: residential, transport hub, leisure centre, recreational space, restaurants/cafes, and office blocks. Each group could use any of the materials provided (the majority of which had been sustainably sourced, such as recycled felt, twigs, recycled paper, paper straws, masking tape, twine, etc., and the leftovers of which were either recycled, reused, or kept for future use) to design either a 2-D drawing or 3-D model of their area, and they had to consider: land use and space, materials, waste, water supply and use, energy efficiency and biodiversity. They had inspiration boards around the room, and the benefit of a business mentor with industry knowledge on their table to inspire and guide them.
The kids we worked with came from schools in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull area, and the mentors came from HS2, The Environment Agency, Atkins, Balfour Beatty and Network Rail.
It was interesting to talk to teachers about the lack of opportunities that students have in school to work on their soft skills, and the challenges that teachers face to allow their students to be really creative. A combination of a knowledge-heavy curriculum and a focus on exam results and, in some schools, balancing discipline and behaviour issues with offering more creative opportunities in classes, means that experiences like these hands-on workshops are invaluable to the students.
I also had a conversation with one of the Solihull councillors about how important it is to get kids to have a voice/say in their future and I hope that there will be more opportunities for councils and businesses to engage with and listen to these young people – their ideas are often inspirational, and it is, after all, their future we are talking about!
Written by: Sarah Milburn, West Midlands Programme Coordinator and Communications Lead
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd.