Creative Thinking on Climate Change at Footscray City College: Weather Stations Substations

As the Victorian school year kicks off, we’re launching an exciting new education project, in collaboration with Footscray City College and in partnership with Tipping Point Australia.

Weather Stations is an international project that places literature and storytelling at the heart of conversations around climate change. The Wheeler Centre is one of five global partners, with Miles Franklin shortlisted writer Tony Birch as our Australian writer in residence.

The Weather Stations project at Footscray City College involves a class of Year Nine students in an innovative program that invites them to engage with climate change and the environment, through art and creativity. They will take writing workshops with Tony Birch, go on excursions – including a city laneway walk, a walk along the Yarra with an Indigenous perspective, and a guided forage for food in Footscray (followed by preparing a meal) – and be engaged by school visits by leading thinkers and artists. The students involved have chosen Weather Stations as one of their elective subjects for 2015.

‘One of the big questions in education, I think, is how do we engage students with thinking and acting on climate change?’ says Sue Dwyer, the teacher running the Weather Stations program at Footscray City College. ‘To most teenagers it’s still a very abstract concept – they can’t grasp the immediacy of the problem and don’t see the point in wasting time and energy on it. Climate change is in the news, but not many teenagers watch or read the news. They’re probably more familiar with the scenarios in post-apocalyptic novels, films and video games, which they see as not real. But teenagers are heading towards a future that will be radically different to anything most of us have imagined. They are the citizens, and even the leaders and policy-makers, of the future. Their generation needs to reimagine, invent, innovate and create new lifestyles, industries, careers and consumer choices. To do this, they need to be analytical and creative thinkers.’

Weather Stations: Substations aims to discover, with young people, how our own knowledge, motivation and imaginations can lead us in adapting to the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. The students at Footscray City College will be documenting their learning experience and producing a body of creative work, through creative writing and making short films about climate change. Their work will be published on the international Weather Stations blog alongside that of the writers in residence from each country, including Tony Birch. Their work will also be presented as part of a Youth Summit on Climate Change at the 2015 International Literature Festival Berlin. Along the way, the students will respond to a range of provocations around climate change, engage in reflective activities that involve making things (in the first lesson, they made moss-covered balls of soil containing plants called kokedamas), and work with open-source technology to collaboratively solve problems.

‘By provoking and challenging students with all kinds of presenters, the Weather Stations project has the potential to not only make them engage, question and reflect on climate change, but to seed a dialogue about it,’ says Sue Dwyer. ‘They’ll see how writing, film, art, games and other cultural expressions discuss and explore social, cultural and scientific issues. I really hope that some of the students’ experiences in this project are transformative and that there are flow-on benefits for the school in the short term, and the planet in the long term.’

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