It struck me on a number of occasions in recent weeks that I perhaps I was mad. Perhaps I was completely crazy to have agreed to give two, hour-long school presentations to 600 primary school kids. As I sat late into the evenings, deskbound and furrow-browed over how to communicate global warming to 5 year olds (and could I really show that video clip of a seal pup getting clubbed?) I vowed never to put my hand up for such certain crucifixion again. The day dawned. Luckily, I had roped in Greenpeace Communications Manager Suzette and our French communications intern Francois as trusty side kicks. Also, I hasten to add, we had a polar bear suit (the best weapon in the fight against fidgeting).
Elm Park Primary
We set off to Pakuranga, Elm Park School, and got to work setting up our presentation. Presently, 300 five and 6 year olds filed in. They had been specifically instructed to keep quiet, and not say a word, and simply smile at us politely. I quickly put paid to that by shrieking "hi guys, how is everyone?!?!" at which they erupted. The teacher looked pained. Our presentation involved no less than 94 slides and three videos (it was only part way through one of them, which we'd set to a "Walk on the Wild Side' remix, that I realised the lyrics referred rather explicitly to sex. "Er, oh gosh, um, look at those ice bergs!" I yelped in an attempt to drown out the words.
We also did what I felt were some ingenious skits to demonstrate global warming. One went like this:
Step 1: Kathy pretends to be a car, making vroom vroom noises to demonstrate pollution.
Step 2: Kathy lies on the ground.
Step 3: Suzette says "Bye bye Kathy" and throws a blanket (signifying a build up of greenhouse gases) over Kathy.
Step 4: Kathy continues to make pollution noises (now slightly muffled from under the blanket). All in aid of showing that the emissions coming from the car are trapped, because of the build up of greenhouse gases.
Final step, Kathy emerges triumphant from under blanket, noting "boy it was hot in there."
A climate change presentation
Genius! My original proposal had involved Suzette farting, but she quite rightly said: "I refuse to be your prop, and I am NOT farting!" Half way through the presentation, (coincidentally just as we were talking about melting polar ice caps) there is a knock at the door. And what do you know, it's a polar bear! I swear the kids nearly lost it. It was like a Beatles concert in the 60s. Later, Mr Pol. R Bear would ask the kids questions about what they did around the home and at school to reduce their carbon footprint. Some of the replies were excellent. One pupil said that when at home all her brothers and sisters had to read books in the same room to conserve power. Another pupil swore by his hot water bottle as a way to avoid electric blankets. And another young boy said very fervently "I don't want to kill whales". Too right.
The visit was cool; really invigorating, and a good reminder of why we do what we do. As Francois ("the polar bear speaks French!!!"- 7 year-old) said: "The responses we got from these children were great. They seemed to be very interested in what we showed and quite aware of what is happening to the environment. At this age, they are still very natural and that is why it was so rewarding to make such a presentation. It has been a good time for us and I think for them too."