- By Louise Cullen
- BBC NI agriculture and environment correspondent
A new climate change qualification is inspiring action among the first group of pupils in Northern Ireland to study it.
Reducing Carbon Footprints Through Environmental Action was developed by the environment charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
Pupils learn about biodiversity, climate campaigning and fast fashion.
The course’s first cohort are now halfway through their studies.
At St Colm’s High School in Dunmurry, County Antrim, they have been travelling the world without leaving the classroom.
“I’ve learned about the different situations all over the world, especially Sudan where the Sahara’s blown in and destroying cropland and pushing people out of their homes into the cities,” said Steven.
‘I want to try harder’
He took the qualification with an eye to his future career ambitions.
“I want to go into transportation, like trucking. And with climate change it’s definitely going to affect that field of work and change how it operates,” he said.
“I think it would be nice to learn about why it’s happening and how my company can actually change it and benefit the world more.”
The students have also learned about their own impact on the world by examining their carbon footprint.
Discovering how climate change is affecting the planet has changed how these teenagers are living.
“It just makes you want to try harder,” said Courtney-Ann.
She said: “Because we do stuff in the house that we don’t need.
“We leave the heating on, we’ll leave all lights on, we’d get long showers that we don’t need and just all silly stuff like that, that you could just stop and cut down on and help out a lot.
“It’s just the little things you could do to change a big part of the world.”
The pupils are not the only ones learning new things. Teachers go on a one-day training with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
Geography teacher Chris Robb said: “I learned stuff that I had read about at university, that had sort of been buried right down in the mind closet.”
He said attitudes about climate change were evolving and the children were already working out ways to reduce their own impact.
“If that means that they make a tiny wee change, then perfect. And if that means our planet isn’t going to warm up as quickly as it is now, fantastic,” Mr Robb said.
The pupils achieve a GCSE-equivalent grade B through coursework, without having to sit any exams.
“I find that less stress-worthy,” Mya said.
“It’s just easier, plus you get a good GCSE at the end.
“It’s been very interesting and given me more awareness, so yeah, I say any child out there do it, because it’s good for you.”
More schools are expected to offer the course next year.