Earlier this month, we joined forces with RSPB Scotland to host the Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival Youth Conference in the Glasgow Science Centre. The day formed the closing event of a fantastic year celebrating 30 years since the Glasgow Garden Festival and also the final month of Scotland’s Year of Young People. Tying the two together, the Youth Conference brought 90 pupils from schools across the city together to share their experiences of local greenspace and their ideas for the future of Glasgow’s green infrastructure.
One of our graduates, Alice Brawley, joined the event and shares her reflections on the day in this blog.
Anne McCall, RSPB Scotland Director gave a warm welcome to the conference, followed by Kerry Wallace, Scottish Natural Heritage Area Manager for Strathclyde and Ayrshire. Kerry reflected on her memories of attending the Glasgow Garden Festival 30 years ago and spoke of her hope that young people would be “the next generation to ensure we create places that benefit both people and nature.” The day certainly demonstrated we were working with young people who valued nature, understood the need to protect and maintain the environment in a sustainable way, and have the motivation and potential to make a real positive change.
Taking part in the day, were pupils from a number of different Glasgow schools and students had the opportunity to share their environmental projects with each other before a day of workshops and hands-on task. We heard from Friends of Springburn Park who renovated their local park into an attractive space for everyone to enjoy, funded by Tesco’s “Bags of Help” scheme. Hillhead High School’s “Queen Bees” talked about their work with the local shops and community in the West End to create a pollinator highway around Gibson Street.
The youngest presenters were from Sunnyside Primary School. From watching David Attenborough as a class to getting involved in local conservation projects, sending letters to MPs to advocating for the ban of single-use plastic, they are communicating all the right messages. Their passion is something we can all learn from as they try to tackle environmental problems facing their generation and reminding us of the quote;
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
During the activity session, I supported Williamwood High School to create a model of how their school might look if green infrastructure was at the forefront of school policy. Armed with tissue paper, cardboard, scissors and glue, their imaginations ran wild as they constructed their vision of green walls, roof gardens, wildflower patches, ponds around running pitches and bee and bird boxes everywhere! Once the model was built, the pupils had discussions on how they could practically make their local area greener. From setting up a green committee to involving their parents and local community, the students left enthused and ready to talk with their head teacher about opportunities within their own school.
There was a lot to be learnt from talking to individual students. One had individually built and sold 100 bird boxes, with profits going to charity – a creative project we could all get on board with! Another acknowledged the frequent use of environmental ‘buzzwords’ and thinks we could all be doing a lot more to help nature while one group of pupils talked about the benefits they feel to their own health and wellbeing from being outside and hope to advocate for spending time in nature as an essential part of their ‘mental health awareness’ week at school.
The conference left many of us filled with joy and faith for the future of the planet. The knowledge, confidence and awareness from the young attendees was outstanding. They were clued up on so many of the environmental issues we try to communicate to adults and the wider public on a daily basis – from the impact of climate change, plastic in the ocean and loss of biodiversity, to the benefits the outdoors and nature has on our own wellbeing. It’s without hesitation that I say the young people at this conference have the knowledge and talent to lead the world into positive environmental change, and they should be listened to!
Thank you to all our partners, guests and helpers on event day and to all the staff and pupils from Hillhead High School, Rosshall Academy, Sunnyside Primary School, Springburn Academy, Saint Andrew’s Roman Catholic Secondary School and Hyndland Secondary School for attending the day and sharing all their ideas on the future of greenspace across Glasgow.