How one Multi-Academy Trust is leading the way on student-driven climate tech innovation
The Chiltern Learning Trust, located in Luton, is a family of 16 schools dedicated to fostering innovation among its students.
The Trust recognised the need to address their carbon footprint and prioritise sustainability in all aspects of their work. While initially a decision to amalgamate their digital strategy and sustainability strategy seemed unconventional, it has proven to be a vital and timely decision.
In an effort to teach about climate change and digital innovation, the trust organised a one-day event titled the Climate Change and Digital Innovation Summit (CCADIS). Emma Darcy, Director of Technology for Learning at Denbigh High School in Luton and the Chiltern Learning Trust led the event from its inception. Emma said:
“At the core of this initiative was the recognition that climate change stands as the most significant threat to our young people's future. Our students are the ones who will inherit this planet, and they deserve the opportunity to engage with, understand, and tackle the environmental issues that have the potential to reshape their lives. Through their participation in the Climate Change and Digital Innovation Summit (#CCADIS), these students shared their inventive solutions with a broader audience, gaining valuable feedback while contributing to a collective effort to combat climate change.”
A partnership approach
The event, which took place on Friday 28th April 2023 at Venue 360 Luton, brought together over 120 students, industry partners and tech volunteers with the primary aim of enabling the students across the trust to showcase the climate app ideas that they had developed as part of Apps for Good’s Innovate for Climate Change course.
During the event, the students listened to inspirational speakers and captivated tech volunteers through their creative stalls and explanations of their climate change app idea. Inviting Apps for Good’s partners including: BNY Mellon, OVO, Epam, Deepmind, GoCardless and TPXImpact gave the students a real sense of purpose and motivation. It provided the perfect opportunity for students to pitch their app idea to industry volunteers.
There was a real excitement on the day with innovative student app ideas which included making it easier to purchase locally produced food; motivating apps to get more traffic off the roads and more people onto bikes as well as reducing plastic in the ocean!
A student from Daubeney Academy commented that feedback from Industry Volunteers at the event helped them to refine their app idea before entering Apps for Good’s annual Showcase. A student from Putteridge High School, said that her team worked hard to consider the design and presentation of their app. They wanted to market it effectively and thought carefully about universal design principles, which is why they included large text within their app idea. She went on to explain how her team gained skills in public speaking as well as coding, which was something that she felt was incredibly valuable.
One of Apps for Good’s partners, DeepMind, sent their Partnerships Manager, Jack Mason, along to the event. He said: "I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was left feeling so inspired. This is a truly fantastic program and I only wish it existed when I was in school."
Many students who attended the event, went on to enter the Apps for Good Showcase, with many shortlisted teams competing nationally to pitch their app idea to Industry Volunteers.
They leveraged the expertise of these professionals to devise innovative solutions... In doing so, they not only acquired crucial skills but also harnessed the potential of collaboration and creativity in their pursuit of a sustainable tomorrow.”
Emma Darcy, Director of Technology for Learning at Denbigh High School in Luton and the Chiltern Learning Trust
One of the teams showcasing their app ideas (and won the public vote at the event!) was Lightening Bikers from Challney High School for Boys. Lightening Bikers is the climate app idea developed by 13-15 year old students Tawhied, Musa and Mahmoud. The students designed the app for casual bike riders to encourage them to get on their bikes more often to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions. The team was awarded ‘Judge’s Favourite' in the Climate Changers category, sponsored by OVO Foundation in this year’s Showcase.
We asked them about their inspiration for the app idea and they said, “As it was personal, I saw my sister not use her bike and she would rather drive around, so I decided to see how we can make biking more enjoyable, instead of people driving their cars and polluting the planet.”
The app motivates riders by participating in virtual bike races either alone or as part of a community. The more you ride, the more rewards you receive and climb the leader board.
The team welcomed feedback from our Industry Volunteers at the Chiltern Learning Trust Climate Change and Digital Innovation Summit (CCADIS). The boys said, "It helped us develop our app and improve it and decide how we can change it and edit it so it’s more accessible and more enjoyable.” They also developed their presentation, teamwork and public speaking skills by talking to others about their app idea.
“We created the app and then kept improving it. It helped us create and fix stuff. Also creating the slides and working as a team and made us special friends.”
In the academic year 2023/24, Innovate for Climate Change was taught in 53 schools across the UK, developing the green skills and digital skills of over 1,800 young people - we’re now reaching almost 5 times as many schools as last academic year and more than 4 times as many students have gained green and digital skills. Almost 60% of the students we surveyed who took the course want to do more to act on climate change. Emma told us how the course had impacted students in The Chiltern Learning Trust:
“In essence, the Apps For Good Innovate for Climate Change course provided our students with a platform to confront the paramount challenge of their time. It equipped them with the knowledge, skills, and a profound sense of purpose required to shape a meaningful and sustainable future.”
The event was a huge success and will run again on Friday 26th April 2024. Emma Darcy and the Chiltern Learning Trust are keen to hear from anyone who would like to work on this with them. If your organisation could add value to this event, please reach out to Emma directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more? You can find out more about the event and the Chiltern Learning Trust’s journey towards carbon zero on page 4 of Rise Magazine.
If you’re thinking of hosting a similar event across your Multi-Academy Trust, get in touch at email@example.com to discuss how we could help make it happen.