Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Could you put your school dustbins on a diet next term?

It is fitting that my last talk for this academic year was at the school where 'it all started'.

Yesterday I was invited to be guest speaker at an evening to celebrate success at Henry Box School in Oxfordshire.  Last summer I worked with a group of Henry Box students to create this lovely Henry Box version of my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, which you can read below.

But that's not when 'it all started'.  Rewind a few years...

I’ve been a Henry Box parent since 2005. We’re a social household and so I’ve seen many, many Henry Box students over the years coming to my house. And many Henry Box students have asked me this question:

“Anna, where’s the rubbish bin?”

 But we don’t really have one.

" So I have to ask the question: “What have you got?”

Having to ask this question, made me realise that we see things a bit differently in the Pitt household. When we no longer need or want something, we don’t see rubbish, we see a resource to re-purpose or to pass on to someone else, whether that’s by giving it away to friends or family, taking it to a charity shop or recycling or composting it. We almost always find a use for what we no longer want to use and as a result our landfill bin, spends most of the time neglected and lonely and gets put out once a year with nothing much in it.

Regular visitors to my house have got used to this over time, but after one particular gathering when those same questions arose, I asked my daughter, Jen, whether people recycled at school. She said there are recycling bins, but people don’t often seem to use them. They just think RUBBISH and so they throw it away. Lots of recyclable stuff just gets put into landfill bins.

And that’s what got me thinking about how I could try to encourage more young people to think RESOURCE rather than RUBBISH? How do I encourage young people to WASTE LESS? I feel that Henry Box students set me that challenge and my book and the Henry Box book is part of my finding a solution to that challenge.

Since writing my book, I've spoken to well over 1000 wonderful young people at various schools, challenging them to waste less and think RESOURCE rather than RUBBISH.  And I've put this challenge to various groups of adults too.   I hope I've inspired a few people to WASTE LESS and THINK MORE.  Will a few more toothpaste tubes and cereal boxes get recycled?  Maybe a few more people will check the packaging and choose the pizza that has a compostable or widely recyclable cardboard base rather than the rarely recycled polystyrene type?  Judging from the conversations I had yesterday evening following my talk, a few people learnt something or will see things a bit differently as a result.

Sometimes, though, the best part of speaking to groups of people about something you are knowledgeable and passionate about is the learning and inspiration you gain in return.  When I look back on this academic year I realise how much I've learnt from giving talks and running workshops.

Here are some highlights below.

Charlotte's tip for The Marlborough School version of 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free made me realise that I'd completely lost the cycling habit.  I used to always walk to the village, but I would drive to my nearest town even though it is only five miles away.  I've now dusted off my bike and got back in the saddle and I'm making most journeys to town by bike. The lovely bunch of flowers I was presented with last night got a few comments on the way home as I cycled back from the Awards Evening with the flowers tucked into a pocket of my rucksack.

Charlotte's Tip
Alex (Year 5) asked me a question that really got me thinking: "Why do we have to save water when it rains all the time?"  What a great question!  I won't go into the answers right now, but I've written a whole new workshop with that as my title.

Sam's comment (Year 4) and the accompanying expression on his face when we discussed the fact that a hamburger has a water footprint of 2500 litres is one that will always stay with me.  He said "I'm blown away, Miss.  You've shocked me."   I'm still learning from that one!

Talks and workshops will resume from Wednesday 1st October 2014.  Dustbin Diet workshops should be booked by 15th October for schools who would like to create a book in time for Christmas (as workshops need to be completed by end November).

Friday, 13 June 2014

Empty Classroom Day

What is the best learning experience you've ever had?  Is there something in particular that springs to mind?  Or are there several experiences that you can think of, that really touched you and shaped you and made you the person you are today?

How many of those transformative learning experiences actually took place in a classroom?

Empty Classroom Day was set up by the London Sustainable Schools Forum to promote and celebrate outdoor learning. In recent years there's been growing concern that people are spending less and less time outdoors, yet we know that being outdoors is great for our health and well-being.  It is also often where the best learning takes place.  

Here are three of my own best learning experiences.

Age 10, I remember learning about erosion on a wet, windy cliff  in Wales, where we watched the sea raging up through a blowhole.

At age 11 my whole class was unimpressed when our summer outing was announced.  We were going to be visiting Aylesbury Mushroom Farm, which back then was an important employer in our local area.  We whinged and groaned at what we were sure would be a 'boring' trip.  But what came from that day was my most memorable summer outing ever.  I was fascinated about the growing cycle of the mushrooms and the stages of development from raw manure to perfect compost for the mushrooms. Then the used compost went onto the fields, to grow oats and corn to feed the pigs that produced the manure that grew the mushrooms.  No chemicals and no waste. A perfect circular economy.

Age 16, I remember pounding the pavements of Swansea mapping land use. I will never forget the 82 year old man who told me about the changes the area was going through.  He said he'd lived in the same house for his entire life.  Apart from the practicalities of how to conduct a land-use survey (the intended learning outcome, I assume) I learnt that day an important lesson about community that I think has served me well and continues to do so today.

In fact, though, outdoor learning doesn't have to involve windy cliff tops, coach trips and field study centres.  The school grounds, the nearest park or just the street right there in front of you can offer countless learning opportunities.  I like this Tree Crown investigation from outdoor  All you need is just one tree. For more ideas take a look at the London Sustainable Schools Forum ECD Resources page

Take one tree…just add students.

To take part in empty classroom day all you have to do is take just one lesson outside on 20th June.

Have you signed up yet?  You can do that right here:!/journal_entry/25498

Friday, 9 May 2014

Best of Both Worlds 2014 -6th International Conference on Environmental Education (EE) and Sustainability

My bags are packed, ready and waiting.  My presentation slides are loaded onto my laptop and flash drive.  Tonight I set off for the Best of Both Worlds 2014 - the 6th International Conference on Environmental Education and Sustainability, where I will be presenting a paper about 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free and the Dustbin Diet workshops based on the book.

This year's conference is to be held in Bertioga, near Sao Paulo, Brazil.  There will be presentations from 18 countries around the world, as well as key note speakers and workshops and activities.

I'll be talking about the importance of positivity and solutions-based conversations when talking about climate change and I'll be talking about the power of social proof as a key driver to inspire and empower the next generation towards a path of sustainable consumption and zero waste.

Negative learning experiences lead to inaction and despondency...

Positive learning experiences inspire and encourage action.
To download the full paper, click here (Study of the pilot workshops - pdf).

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Primary School Visits in 2014

Since September I've been visiting primary schools talking to children about all the different things we can do to green up our daily lives just by making a few small changes to our habits.

Having visited a number of schools now, I've found it works best when the children have had a chance to read some of my book before the visit.  So learning as I go along, I've planned to send out boxes of books to schools on the first day of next term for those already booked in.  Visits will start in the third week of term.   For term 4 I will send books out at the beginning of February.

Another thing I learnt is that children do love to have their books signed, so please do allow some time for this if the children get to keep their books.

If you would like a school visit next term please email me at

Visits are free to schools purchasing a box of 30 books @ £180 which includes postage.

There will be a poster competition at the end of March for all participating primary schools.  Details of how to enter will accompany your books.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Neurodidactics - The Key to Good Practice in Education?

Thanks to my involvement with LEEF (London Environmental Educators' Forum) I have the privilege of taking part in the “iTongue: Our Multilingual Future” workshop in Stuttgart at the end of this week.

“iTongue: Our Multilingual Future” aims to bring together scientific knowledge about how people learn and  new mobile learning programmes (Apps) to help meet socio-educational as well as labour-market needs arising from demographic change and industry-migration in Europe.

That brings me to explain why I'm sitting on the floor in front of a log fire, candles burning, with my children's long ago abandoned coloured pencils and some bits of scrap paper - old handouts from past training courses from the days when we generally only used one side of the paper for fear that our printer would jam up if we tried to print on the other side.

I'm learning about neurodidactics. And I'm hoping that by applying all the techniques that I'm learning about I'll have a deeper understanding of the subject and will be able to recall the relevant information promptly and painlessly for ever more.  If only I could say the same about my German grammar!

The thing about mind maps is they only really help the person who made them, but if the pretty colours in the picture have piqued your interest, then you could always sit down with you own candles and coloured pencils and have a read about this fascinating and important science.  Here's a link:

And why the candles?  The clue's in the picture...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Year 5s enjoying their green curriculum

In September I visited Henry Cavendish Primary School in Balham to talk to the children about my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free.

We started the day with an assembly for Year 2 through to Year 6 where we did a landfill bin audit and then talked about waste and how to reduce it.

After the assembly I spent an hour with each Year 5 class, playing games based on my book and talking through the children's own ideas about the simple everyday things they can do to live cleaner and greener for free.

The children had been working with my book across various areas of the curriculum and it was lovely to see the results displayed on the wall.  Here's a taster of some of the posters they've produced.

The children told me about the wormery, where their fruit peel gets eaten and turned into compost.  They explained about their eco-warriors, who go round each classroom and check that lights, screens and computers have been correctly turned off, and that the correct recycling bins have been used.  Each class is monitored to ensure they are putting into practice all the green measures they can and progress is reported and celebrated to keep everyone on their toes.

For me, it was great to see my book in use in the classroom and as well as seeing the literacy work they had been doing, I heard about the plans for drama sessions, science sessions and the children had even asked to be able to work with some of the maths.

101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free gives an insight into the science and maths of going green.  Although aimed principally at Key Stage 3, and therefore challenging for primary level, it just shows that where there's a will there's a way and when children are keen to do something, they will rise to the challenge.

For more information about primary school talks and school discounts for books please email me directly at