Get to know Size of Walesâ€™ Education Programme Coordinator, Deirdre Raffan, a little betterâ€¦
Where are you coming to Size of Wales from?
Iâ€™ve just finished a seasonal role at the beautiful Ynyslas nature reserve. Itâ€™s in the Dyfi valley where Iâ€™ve lived for over thirty years. I felt very lucky that working there coincided with the stunning weather we had this summer. For the previous eighteen years I worked with a great departmental team at Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. We were passionately involved in developing and delivering experiences, workshops and activities to encourage people of all ages to understand and engage with living more sustainably.
What drove you to work within the topic of climate change?
Iâ€™ve been interested in environmental issues from an early age and found the organisation 3WI (Third world 1st , now Practical Action) influential as well as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. My first job after university was about encouraging re-use and recycling. I couldnâ€™t believe how much waste our society created. At that time I also volunteered to co-ordinate a rainforest campaign and got involved in working with young people in a variety of ways. I slowly but surely saw climate change as the all-encompassing global issue that it is, requiring action as quickly and effectively as possible to protect biodiversity and safeguard future generations. I moved from thinking that running out of fossil fuels was a major problem, to realising that the difficult but much more important issue is how to leave the fossil fuels in the ground and minimise all greenhouse gas emissions. There are so many interesting aspects to greenhouse gas mitigation, involving both individual and structural change, adopting small and larger scale technological innovation, using the insights of neuropsychology and behaviour change and increasing our societies connection with the natural world. Increasing rainforestsâ€™ cover are a vital part of the solution.
What do you enjoy about teaching children?
Teaching children is interesting work, you never know what they will actually learn and one of the most important parts is encouraging their own critical thinking skills. Iâ€™ve found that with potentially overwhelming topics like climate change, activities involving group interaction with games, play, discussion and story work well with young people (and many adults).
Is it a clichÃ© to say children are our future?
Iâ€™ve been involved long enough to see â€œchildrenâ€� making a difference, not just at school age but the jobs they aim for and what they bring to those roles. I want young people to feel empowered to face the difficult aspects of our future by helping them have a global view and make links with the local, aware of the range of choices that could lead to a positive future that minimises the rate of climate change.
Do you have any exciting plans for the education programme?
Iâ€™m keen to work closely with the education outreach team to continue to expand the reach of Size of Wales. In terms of numbers of pupils and schools we visit the demand is already greater than we can supply in our established areas and we are increasing our areas covered. Schools can be a great way to make links between local and global communities so I want to make sure we are making the most of these opportunities. I want to engage with the new curriculum plans in Wales and explore the best ways to input at secondary and possibly tertiary level. I want to make sure the outreach team have the support and resources to continue to develop and deliver interesting, enabling workshops linking, where possible, indoor classroom activities with real nature experiences.
Iâ€™d like to explore perhaps using a virtual reality rainforest experience and skyping our real rainforest contacts. There are many potentially fruitful partnerships to explore with a range of relevant organisations and I want our resources and training sessions for teachers and educators to be as useful as possible.
Any final comments?
Changing the term â€˜size of Walesâ€™ from a measure of rainforest destruction (which is how I came across the term in the eighties) to the positive solution-focused story it now is of rainforest support thanks to Size of Wales, is a mission I support and want myself and others to be part of.