Poetry for the Climate: COP26

Poet Louisa Adjoa Parker running a climate poetry workshop at Damers First School ©Damers School

I’ve mentioned before about People Need Nature’s work with The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network. We’ve been working together for five years now, getting poets to write challenges that inspire young poets (across the world) to write about different aspects of nature and what it means to them in their own lives. You can see the challenges and read the winning and commended poems on the PNN website.

This year, in the run up to COP26, the big climate conference, we set a challenge written by Devon poet Louisa Adjoa Parker. At the same time we bid to the COP26 organisers, to take the winning poets to Glasgow so they could perform their poems and show how young people are feeling about the climate, and the lack of climate action. I’ve already written about those poems and how powerful they are – you can see or hear some of the winning poets performing their poems on the Poetry Society website.

The COP26 organisers liked our proposal and have given us an hour to showcase the poets and their work – and that’s happening tomorrow at 12pm.

You can watch the performances live on Youtube using this link .

Just in case it doesn’t work, search for COP26 Green Zone Tower Base North, which is the name of the venue.

This year, we’ve also been working with Damers First School in Poundbury, which uses the Harmony Curriculum, placing nature at the heart of the children’s learning. The first project was to collect wildflower seeds from local places, propagate the seeds in school and plant them out on Poundbury’s Great Field, where we’ve been working with the Duchy of Cornwall to create new areas of Wildflower Meadow and other wildflower habitats. This has been immensely rewarding, and the children (and teachers) really enjoy it. Taking some of the classes out to collect seed, was the first visit beyond the school gates for well over a year – and the children revelled in being outside in nature.

Following on from this project, I was talking to the school about the climate poet challenge, and we thought it would be great to bring a poet into the school to work with small groups of children to inspire them to write about nature and the climate. This has come to fruition and Louisa Adjoa Parker has come into the school and run four half day workshops in October and November. I’ve played a supporting role and encouraged the children to think about how nature, people and climate are linked together. We made use of the School’s small but excellent wildlife garden, to inspire the children to think about nature and the climate, and Louisa led a short mindfulness exercise, where the children focus their attention on a flower, or a seedhead. In the workshop earlier this week a couple of the boys were looking at a reedmace spike and decided it looked like a poo on a stick, which was accurate and poetic!

Louisa working with the children in Damers wildlife garden ©Damers School

I mentioned to the school that it would be amazing if we could somehow link the school climate poetry workshops with the Glasgow event and wondered if we could make a film of the children in their workshops, and a few of them reciting their poems. By amazing coincidence, the school IT officer is a trained tv producer, and she spent the day filming the children at their workshops, then organised filming of the children performing their poems, and edited it all together, all in time to get it over to the COP26 people.

me talking to the children about a flower ©Damers School

So tomorrow as well as the winners of the challenge, we will show the film of the Damers Children being inspired and performing their poems about nature and the climate. Remember these are years 3 and 4 – seven to nine year olds. I was really struck by how aware they were (and I think most of that is down to Damers School and the way they encourage their students to be curious and enquiring) and how powerful their poems are.

If you aren’t able to watch it live (and I realise that it clashes with tomorrow’s big climate action event), I imagine that there will be an opportunity to watch it on catch up and I’ll let you know the link to that once I know it myself.

Miles King, People Need Nature

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