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A green-tinted challenge for 2021

Happy new year to all ELT Footprinters! A new year is a good time for reflection but also for looking ahead, making plans, and maybe making resolutions for the coming year. So what about a personal or professional challenge? If you think that’s a good idea, read on.


We get lots of posts and comments on the ELT Footprint Facebook page so it’s easy to miss something that piques our personal interest or which we find particularly thought-provoking or inspiring.  This is why it doesn’t matter if something gets shared more than once and it’s why, on 17th October, I was especially pleased to read a post by Sylvia Goetze where she mentioned her 9-week challenge to include something climate-related in each of her lessons. In Silvia’s words, “My 9-week challenge to include SOMETHING climate-related into every single lesson. Perhaps you all do this already, but personally, in spite of everything I believe, read, see and do, it has remained a challenge to consistently and deliberately integrate climate into teaching. Ideas are not lacking, it’s commitment and just DOING it. I’m on fire, but that wave of teaching preoccupations keeps dousing it…and this has got to stop.” In the same post she shares a photo of a tree (see below) and an explanation of how she uses it.

But what jumped out at me was the fact that here was an inspiring teacher, determined to do her bit to raise awareness and address the climate emergency with her students in a meaningful way. She says she posted about her nine-week challenge in the group in the hope that it would help her to “a) be accountable to this goal and b) perhaps encourage others to take up a personal challenge.” Several people engaged with Silvia below this post and later posts and the whole thing got me thinking about challenges and how motivating they can be. Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while, you will have noticed the rise and rise of the viral challenge. They can be silly or fun, stretch the limits of physical strength or raise the profile of a problem or issue. Wouldn’t it be great if we could start a viral challenge that had a positive effect on the environment? I’m still thinking about this and wondering what might work in our context of ELT or Education in general. In the meantime, I’ve come up with a list of five ideas of challenges we could consider trying on our own, with our students or with colleagues.

They’re just suggestions and made to be tweaked to suit your context. Every day could be Once a week, Silvia’s nine weeks could be four weeks. Make sure the challenge is do-able. You can always do it again when you finish.

Five challenge ideas

  1. Silvia’s challenge

Include SOMETHING climate related in every lesson with one of your classes.

This could be something small, like a mini discussion about an item in the news or asking students to share a photo of something they love from nature. It could also be something bigger, of course.

  1. Green words

Teach one new environmental word in every lesson.

One of our jobs as English teachers is to give our students the language they need to be able to speak about important global issues, including environmental issues. How about starting a class word poster or vocabulary box with environmental vocabulary. By adding a new word every lesson, we’ll build up our students’ vocabulary and end up with a great classroom resource to use in any number of ways.

  1. Get outside

Go outside and appreciate the world around you every single day.

Try to do it without being connected (to the internet). Enjoy the weather, whatever the weather. Look for something natural that’s growing and think about its place in the world. Do whatever rocks your boat. Draw something, take a photo of something, keep a journal about what you notice.

  1. Read up or listen up!

Read a green blog post or listen to a green podcast every day. I recently asked for some help in compiling a list of suggestions of podcasts so I’ll share that in a separate blog post. But here are a couple to get you started:

The slow home podcast – slow living for a fast world

GreenBiz 350 about sustainable business and clean technology

39 ways to save the planet from BBC Radio 4 and the Geographical Society

How to save a planet – How to make a difference

  1. Green talk

Have a dialogue about an environmental issue every day.

This could be a spontaneous, informal chat or you could make it more formal and schedule a weekly chat, either face to face or online with a friend or family member, some work colleagues or even members of the ELT Footprint group. Share out the responsibility by creating a joint list of discussion topics. Or make it a ‘show and tell’ and take turns in sharing information about something you’ve found out about.

Whatever challenge you decide to take up, try to think of it as a golden opportunity for learning. After all, that’s what us teachers are all about.


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