Earth Magic - A New Earth Education Programme

Earth Magic is a new programme developed by Northern Education for Sustainability in 2012 using the earth education approach, engaging learners in science, literacy, numeracy and sustainability issues that will have a lifelong effect on them and will have a school wide influence.

Becoming an Earth Magician - A Programme Overview

The programme involves one day out in the natural world followed by a minimum of one term’s follow up work at school and home which includes looking at human impacts on the natural world and undertaking life style changes to reduce their own impact personally. The children are challenged to find the lost meaning of the magic word WASSAP; this is the magic word that makes life on earth work properly (Earth Magic).

Unfortunately because we’ve forgotten its meaning the magic isn’t working so well any more. As they complete the programme they will themselves become Earth Magicians and can start to help Earth Magic to work properly again.

The programme starts with a surprise delivery to the classroom of a bin with a riddle to solve; inside the bin are endangered animals and plants plus something very unexpected buried under a pile of different types of rubbish; the Earth. The contents of the bin form the focus of the follow up investigations that the children will do after their day out on site.
Earth Magic BookletAs they proceed step by step during the day out on site they discover that WASSAP stands for Water, Air, Soil, Sun, Animals and Plants. Through active and engaging participatory discovery based activities they learn how the cycles of air, water and soil work  and discover how sunshine energy powers all life on Earth through food chains. They also learn that “ Water, Air, Soil and Sun are where Animals and Plants come from”.  This organiser helps to fix the principles and ideas in their minds. They are also given a booklet which supports and reinforces each step of the programme and a magic wand which marks their progress and their achievements as they advance through the programme.
They spend the next term investigating the A and P part of the magic word looking at the various man made environmental problems through projects focused on the various waste and energy consuming items and the animals and plants involved. An important element is that they use their new knowledge to make informed decisions about things they can do in their everyday lives at home and at school to reduce their own environmental impacts. They also share their new found knowledge and experiences within the school and at home. Pages 10 to 15 of the booklet indicate the work that the teacher undertakes with the children back at school and at home.
Once the activities have been undertaken to the teacher’s and programme leader’s satisfaction the final A and P parts of the programme are awarded and there is a certificate presentation at school for the new Earth Magicians.
The new environmental good habits are just the beginning – as Earth Magicians they are now tasked with the ongoing work of making sure Earth Magic works properly. It will give them a new positive social perspective and outlook on their immediate surroundings as well as more widely
The teacher is given on-going support by email and telephone and three further class sessions with the programme leader.

Programme Outcomes

It has been demonstrated through our work in schools with the Earthkeepers programme that the work undertaken by the participating class acts as a catalyst within the school for projects based on the environment and for living sustainably through the sharing work undertaken by the class enjoying the programme. We highlight some of the programme benefits below.
Education and exemplary activity - education for sustainable living is at the heart of the programme. Life style change and increased contact with the natural world are key outcomes. These are measured by completion of the chosen tasks indicated in the booklet and signed off as completed satisfactorily by the teacher. National curriculum targets across a wide range of subjects will be achieved.
Reduce, reuse, recycle - this is one of the key platforms of the programme. The opening activity involves a bin at the bottom of which is a globe of the Earth buried under the things we throw away - it is a very powerful opening to reducing our waste and the children will spend quite a bit of time researching some of the things we throw away and the impacts this has. The project work the children undertake will include a focus on the impacts of items of everyday rubbish found in the WASSAP bin along with the plants and animals they endanger. The positive personal actions the children undertake will be to reduce, reuse and recycle based on their new knowledge and understanding of damaging impacts and dwindling resources.
Engagement and participation - the programme goes right to the centre of the school community and the family home where the children in effect act as ambassadors for the environment through their sharing activities and by their behavioral example. They will encourage sustainable living and greater contact with the natural world with parents and siblings as well as at school with other classes.
Health and wellbeing - increased contact with the natural world is well known to be of benefit both in terms of health and mental wellbeing. The programme encourages walking or cycling as an alternative to car use.
Sustainable energy measures – another key element of the programme. The children will consider their own use of energy and take positive action to reduce it. Schools that have engaged with earth education programmes have used them to help achieve eco school status.
Natural environment - the programme teaches how the natural systems of life operate and how they are adversely effected by human activity. Elements of the programme involve building a deeper caring relationship with natural places. This leads to their future protection and future positive personal action.