Despite being one of the most pressing issues of our generation, the majority of the UK population still receive little to no education on the climate crisis.
To find out more, The Boar Climate spoke to AimHi, an organisation committed to educating young people on climate change.
AimHi is determined to empower people of all ages, but particularly the younger generation, with access to reliable nature-based teaching.
In less than a year, founders Matthew Shribman and Henry Waite have built an online platform that reaches tens of thousands of people across the globe.
We spoke to the Head of Impact Outreach at AimHi, Sophie Thomsett, to find out more about the organisation and how it can be of value to Warwick students.
Can you tell me a bit about the how and why AimHi was founded?
AimHi was co-founded by well-known environmentalist and educator Matthew Shribman and school governor Henry Waite.
When the pandemic hit, both were concerned that schools were shutting down and the impact that a lack of access to education would have on young people.
AimHi has been determined from the start to make nature and the environment the driving force behind our teaching.
What do you believe is the core purpose or mission of AimHi?
AimHi strives to bring really engaging and accessible online learning to everyone.
We focus on delivering accessible and engaging nature and science-based education that encourages students to develop a genuine interest in, and curiosity for, climate-related issues.
With regard to our climate courses, we are really looking to ensure that climate education is given the focus that it deserves, not just in the UK, but globally.
We are currently working on linguistic and cultural translations, so that our lessons can be taught in other countries and in other contexts around the world.
What do you think are the current problems with teaching about climate change?
There is a real demand in the UK for climate education, both amongst students and teachers, but it is still not featuring as part of the mainstream curriculum.
It has been siloed into the sciences and geography in a very limiting way, which restricts the extent to which students can learn about climate and the environment.
There are so many ways it could be incorporated into the curriculum, but at the moment it is still largely being overlooked.
Recent research from Oxfam, the UK School Strike for Climate Network and Fridays for Future found that an overwhelming number of teachers want to teach about climate change but have not been given the correct training to do so.
AimHi has been trying to build relationships with education networks, to offer our climate course to as many teachers as possible, so that they have got a much better understanding of the current science and what needs to be done to address the situation.
AimHi teaches a very broad range of people, both in terms of age and background understanding of climate change. How do you manage to create content which is accessible and beneficial to such a broad range of people?
A core focus of AimHi is to keep our content accessible. We try to make scientific topics which can initially appear complicated, much easier to understand with the use of visual analogies for example. This means that you don’t need to have a scientific educational background in order to take part in our lessons or courses.
Additionally, we try and make it as interactive as possible by encouraging anyone and everyone to ask questions. We have such a wide range of attendees, from schoolchildren, to people working in environmental sciences, so there are no expectations when it comes to prior knowledge of climate change.
What response has AimHi received from young people, regarding climate education?
We have seen really amazing responses and engagement from young people. At this pivotal moment in the climate crisis, we are tending to see young people being much more knowledgeable than older generations, because they are starting to recognise the magnitude of the situation. We’re witnessing young people teaching their parents and grandparents because they’re just so passionate about these issues. And even though the education system has failed to teach them, overwhelming numbers are taking their own time to self-educate because it is something they care so much about.
We held a live climate course on Twitch, which is a live streaming platform typically used by gamers. But at its peak, we had approximately 17,000 people watching live, learning and engaging with the topic of climate change. We had such a variety of people co-streaming with us, commenting, chatting and asking questions. I think people have so many questions that they want answers to about climate change because it’s not being taught properly in schools. Additionally, I think a lot of young people worry about finding reliable sources, so it’s really great for them to be able to come to us and know that they are absorbing trustworthy information from knowledgeable educators.
At the University of Warwick, we have noticed a lot of climate anxiety in the student population. How does AimHi balance recognising the magnitude of the situation with providing hope for the future?
First of all, we are really honest about the fact that it’s okay to feel that way. We try to remind people that they are not alone and encourage participants in our online lessons to open conversations with friends and family about it.
We have found that a lot of people find it comforting to learn as much about the topic as they can, which is where our lessons and courses can be of great value. Equally, we recognise that for others, learning more can end up being quite overwhelming; so, we really encourage everyone to take it at their own pace.
We also touch upon climate anxiety in our climate course, particularly during discussions about tipping points, in our first lesson. We recognise that it can be anxiety-inducing to learn about because we can feel quite powerless about not knowing exactly where these tipping points are.
Overall, we really want to emphasise the importance of taking care of yourself and to ask us any question you might have. No question is too stupid, or too small.
Do you have any specific tips for students struggling with climate anxiety?
I would say to be proactive where you can. Making positive changes can actually make you feel like this is a lot more manageable to face up to in your day-to-day life.
Getting involved with activist groups or climate societies can be a great way for students to feel like they are able to do something positive, which can really help to reduce climate anxiety.
Talking to family and friends is also a form of climate action. You can be an influencer just by sharing what you have learned, as well as any general thoughts, feelings or concerns about climate change.
At Warwick, we have noticed that a lot of students who feel like they don’t know enough about climate change, or find it too overwhelming, end up not taking any action simply because they just don’t know where to start. So, how can university students, who maybe don’t have much knowledge of climate change, or feel that they have much time, get involved with climate action and education?
I would really stress that it’s never too late. We’ve had people in their 70s attending our course to learn about climate change for the first time!
You really don’t need a background in subjects which people might consider to be traditionally related to this area, like environmental sciences or geography.
Regardless of what you are studying, climate change is going to affect your future.
Our climate course is only four hours in total, just one hour per week. By the time that participants have finished it, they should have a good grasp on the science and the main nature-based and economic solutions. So, it really doesn’t have to take too much time to learn more about climate change.
If that feels like too much of a commitment, we even have a half-hour summary video on understanding the climate crisis, which should help you to feel a bit more empowered. We are also constantly updating the live lessons we have available, so you can easily learn more at a time that suits you.
In terms of taking action, signing petitions is often seen as a bit redundant, but I would very much disagree. If enough people do it, they can influence substantial change, particularly if followed up with a letter to your MP. Other campaigns that I think are particularly important at the moment are: The Teach The Future campaign, The Climate Census campaign and The Climate and Ecological Emergency bill campaign.
All of these are gaining traction at the moment, and only require you to take a few seconds to get involved in a form of climate action.
AimHi has clearly come such a long way in such a short space of time. Can you give us an insight into future plans for the company?
Trying to go global as quickly as possible is our main priority at the moment. We are hoping to bring the climate course to every continent and are currently collaborating with young changemakers in a range of countries to deliver it in their own local context.
Meanwhile, with our lessons, we are just pushing for bigger and better. We have had some amazing guests on already, like Jane Goodall and Chris Packham, and we are currently in talks with many more potential future guests.
Right now, we are focussing on bringing in thought-provoking role models who will inspire learners to want to become more involved in climate activism.
AimHi is currently running an online Climate Course consisting of 4 interactive live sessions. It usually costs £25 but Warwick students can access this course for free using the code: ClimateWarwick.
For more information about AimHi, go to: https://www.aimhi.com