It is not what you know, it is who you know
The first step of going into Schools or educational facilities to talk about such ideas is to start with friends or family who may be able to give you the opportunity of doing so. Much of the advice below will still come in useful, but this approach is naturally the easiest starting point.
Don’t let the answer be no
Teachers are very busy people. When they are in school they are signing forms, doing paperwork, marking papers and under pressure to secure good test results to mention nothing of the actual teaching they are supposed to be doing. Therefore, exciting new exhibitions and presentations about science and sustainability can tend to slide down their list of priorities somewhat. So the first piece of advice is to remain patient, polite and persistent.
As mentioned in the introduction to this section, schools and universities actively promote science and sustainability and this is our ‘chink of light in the door’ if you will, regarding our opportunity to go into the Schools or Universities to discuss the tenets of an NLRBE.
If at all possible start off your communication with the notion of science and sustainability by stating that you are from an organisation that promotes the use of them as a tool to improve human wellbeing. Referencing TZM early on will likely put those you are communicating with on the defensive as the word can seem a bit odd to those who are unfamiliar with it.
Many of these institutions will usually be on a very tight budget, so as what we are offering is free of charge, it is a great opportunity for them to offer an extra curricula activity for which they do not have to incur any cost.
Below are the some of the step by step methods and particular approaches that I have found useful when approaching educational institutions. These are specifically orientated towards the 6th form citizenship lesson formats in the UK, however the ethos and general approach can be adjusted for different means if necessary.
Bear in mind that a lot of lessons can, and will only be learned by engaging in the process itself, so please do not be afraid to get things wrong along the way. If you are reading this and take the following points on board then I will have made most of these mistakes for you already!
Don’t email initially is my advice. They get so much spam they will more than likely just delete it or it may never reach the person you want it to anyway. The phone call gives you a chance to give them a heads up on who you are and what it concerns to see if they even want to hear more about what you have to offer.
If you type in the local area/county and ‘secondary schools’ into google for example (the same could be done for universities or primary schools etc) then you should be able to find compiled lists of schools in the local area and their contact details. Of course in other countries the terminology changes, but the general approach remains the same.
Then go through them systematically making sure that you keep notes on who you have contacted and where you are in terms of your dealings with each of them. If you are doing this project with others, it may be a good idea to set up a shared google document (or something similar) to help you all keep track of where you are in the process.
Do not go on long winded tangents and stick to the notions of science and sustainability for human concern as much as possible. There is not a school out there who will disagree that we need to be more sustainable and who would not champion science as a beneficial subject for students to learn. Just ask them if it is something they would be interested in and see if they would like an email sent on the topic with more details. That’s your foot in the door so to speak.
Do not be negative or confrontational! It is far easier to attract bees with honey than with vinegar.
Send an email
There are many letter and email templates in this section for you to use as a starting point in this regard. These templates go into a bit more detail and include links to the TZM global website as well as Peter Joseph’s TED talk ‘Introduction to a resource based economy’. This is to give as concise an introduction as possible to the movement, meaning that busy teachers will be more likely to check it out.
Give them a week or so and if you have not heard from them then call back to ask if they received your email.
Keep repeating this process until you are declined or accepted. Obviously if you are declined then politely move on and make a note of this so as not to call back. If they accept then go to step 4.
Organize and prepare your visit
What kind of presentation you give will depend on the time frame you have been given and the age group you are giving it to. Ask what they would like you to cover but be prepared to adapt to what the school timetable will allow.
Sometimes I have just 15 minutes, other times a whole day, but regardless the materials in this section should hopefully help you to provide an engaging experience for any age range or group.
Check that the school has all the facilities you require such as a screen with the correct connecting leads, an audio facility and connection for a lap top if you are playing any videos (I learnt this lesson the hard way when my very first presentations images failed in front of 180 Children and teachers!).
As mentioned in the introduction to this section make sure you know your material. Ideally you will be there on this front already but there is nothing wrong with doing a little revision of the main points, statistics and other relevant information before going into the school or university in question.
With this in mind make sure your presentation has been run through many times and is well rehearsed. You may feel a bit strange talking it through to yourself but it really does help an awful lot with regards to delivering an engaging presentation. Reading from the slideshow is not advised if at all possible. It is far better, more engaging and fun to watch someone talk about something without reading it, especially for kids.
Make sure you take all the necessary leads and adaptors etc, and if you can film it then please do so but bear in mind that many Schools may have a no filming policy which you will need to ask about prior to the event.
Try and see if you can get at least one more member to go with you if possible. It shows that there is an organization behind your message and more than just one person who thinks it is a good idea.
Don’t be late, be early and check everything works before leaving the house!
Something I always make sure to do before going into the presentation itself is to ask that the kids not to believe a word I say. If they find the ideas interesting then please do check them out further. If upon doing so they do not stand up to evidence, drop them. As well as being a positive message to send to the next generation regarding the need to rely on evidence to base your judgements upon, it is also a wonderful way to disarm any suspicions they may have regarding your intentions as you obviously made sure you did your homework before coming to talk to them and are confident that what you are about to say can be backed up by evidence.
When fielding questions be polite, short direct and use evidence to back up your claims if possible but talk in a language and a manner that the kids of the age you are talking to can identify and engage with.
Above all make sure you remain positive and polite. I have done presentations in a, shall we say, ‘passionate’ manner and it did not go very well to say the least. As one TZM member who came with me to this particular presentation put it, ‘I got what I gave’.
Last but not least, try not to stress out. We are only human and we are all learning on the job. The main thing is that you are out there spreading this information and train of thought. I am convinced that after doing this, you will find it a fantastically rewarding experience, one which you will want to repeat over and over again.
Hopefully you will be asked to come back at some point to talk to the wider school or a different year group, but if such an offer is not forthcoming then ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
TZME would like to say a huge thank you to all of you, for all your help in this global effort to take positive action in education. If you have any questions then just use the contact section of this website to get in touch and we will be more than happy to help if we possibly can.