The meticulous collection of cigarette butts and bottle caps is accompanied by the metallic clacking of tongs. In small groups, 40 students from the franz-ludwig-gymnasium in bamberg set out to comb through the city’s erba park and clear it of all kinds of mulch.
What at first appears to be a project seminar this afternoon is actually a way of getting to grips with the "school bug" deal with. Because the young people, who come from grades 7 to 11, once again took part in the fridays for future climate demo on 24. May, which drew a good 1.5 million people to the streets worldwide. Under bavarian law, schools must impose either disciplinary or educational measures on students who are absent without excuse.
"Behind the number of 40 schoolchildren is a great commitment to environmental and climate protection," explains britte kaiser, says teacher michel eichinger before demo participants move across the state garden show grounds. "Nobody wants to step on a can of cola while jogging", says the teacher to his students to make clear the importance of the action.
More meaningful than detention
"That makes more sense than detention or any kind of reprimand", finds isabelle ernst. The tenth-grader, like many of her classmates, was present at most of the fridays for future demonstrations in bamberg. "This shows that the school really cares about the environment", finds your classmate tobias. If you ask the young people how the extra examinations that they have to take for their political commitment are received at home, the feedback is very positive. Some parents had even framed notices and hung them on the wall. "It’s important that we show that we’re not just dancing in school, but that we’re also doing something active", is how inga braungart from grade 8 describes it. Class.
Those who have no excuses must participate in the project day
Other schools in bamberg are facing the same question: how to deal with the students who sometimes swap their notebooks and pens for demonstration signs and transparency on friday mornings? "We will intensively involve the students who have been absent without excuse in two project days in july", explains markus knebel, director of the E.T.A-hoffmann high school. This is how the young people will plan and lead the project on sustainability. At graf-stauffenberg-realschule, the school administration can’t exempt anyone from lessons either: "disciplinary measures are not the solution", emphasizes andrea welscher. The principal is basically positive about the schoolchildren’s commitment and can also imagine a decrease in the number of young people who have to deal with the issue.
At the eichendorff-gymnasium, the school is in agreement with the young women. "The students collect the lists of the demo participants themselves", explains brigitte kaiser. "After a demonstration, the schoolgirls even asked for a reprimand", tells the principal. Otherwise, the principal refers to the padagogical approach and co. Before: "we will make a collection of gauze in the school building to show what different kinds of gauze are produced." Environmental pollution is a serious issue, which is why the school should discuss together: "how can we reduce the amount of gauze at our school??"
At the commercial vocational school, a different approach is being taken: here, art is intended to combine the themes of sustainability and climate protection. "The initiative came from the students themselves", tells class leader jorg neubauer. Thus there is an exhibition that shows environmental destruction and climate change in a variety of ways until the summer vacations. 30 schoolchildren write, photograph and tinker with it. In addition to a world map of pollution, visitors can view sculptures made from the various types of plastic that slosh around in the world’s oceans.
The organizers of fridays for future in bamberg have mixed feelings about the schools’ efforts: "projects such as collecting rubbish on the erba or lectures on climate protection are worth supporting and should actually be part of everyday school life!", finds paul mari, who is in the 9th grade. Class visits the erloser middle school. As long as the actions are not intended as punishment, they are a useful addition. For eleventh-grader simon schon, who goes to school at the gymnasium inzenhofer, the situation is different: "a follow-up for participating in the demos makes just as little sense as a reprimand. This is by no means the essence of our movement understood. We are demonstrating for a change in environmental policy, not for a change in the behavior of schools."
Reaching out to politicians
It’s done: an hour and a half later, ten bags filled with coffee cups, chip bags, styrofoam pieces, straws and other odds and ends end up in a heap. And for the next time, teacher eichinger and his colleagues have already come up with something: "it’s conceivable that events with city council factions or mayors could come about", eichinger explains. The young people were able to approach their communities to get things moving for climate protection on the ground. Mayor christian lange (CSU) has already responded with an invitation to talk to him. Knowing that politics takes time to work, the teacher emphasizes: "we don’t want the commitment of the students to be lost."
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