Reflections on the Sustainability Summer Play-scheme at Powerhouse

INTENT- What were we trying to achieve?

Before I discuss the play-scheme, it is important to consider the global events that were taking place at this time.  Looking at the table below, it is clear that there were four major weather phenomena taking place:  






European heat waves

June 12 – September 12



Pakistan floods

June 14 – October



Afghanistan floods

May – August



Nigeria floods

May – October


Data taken from Wikipedia (

I pondered how these significant events impacted on the children’s thoughts, feelings and emotions and felt that it was important to explore this with the children from the outset.   Interestingly, the children did not make a connection with the unusually, extremely hot weather that they were experiencing in soggy Manchester. Considering some of our children’s families are from a range of different countries including Pakistan and Nigeria, they still struggled to make connections between our actions in the UK and how they can impact on countries abroad.  The students struggled to understand their own responsibility in looking after our planet.   (It must be noted that the Somali drought had not taken place during this period).  Another consideration is that the fact that the media tended to cover the wild fires in France and Spain, but did not cover the other weather disasters in as much detail.  Was there a bias to Western-based news?

Prior to the play-scheme commencing, the staff team met to generate ideas – based on the enrichment activities that had been booked for the play-scheme, a provisional focus of looking after our planet was agreed.    I conducted some research and found a bank of resources, which could be used to explore sustainability with the children. Having spoken to Lisa, CEO of the Powerhouse, she explained that there was an initiative aimed at obtaining young people’s perspectives on sustainability.  I asked Lisa to visit the children in the afternoon of the first day of the play-scheme to be interviewed by the children on how sustainable the Powerhouse was.  This activity provided the perfect stimulus to engage the children to see that sustainability starts with us right here, right now!

Despite having a rough plan for the play-scheme, I wanted to obtain the children’s thoughts and ideas.  On my first day at the play-scheme as the Lead Playworker, I got the children together so that I could collate their ideas on what they would like to cover.  Through discussing their ideas and introducing key vocabulary, such as pollution, fossil fuels, deforestation, the children identified the following possible projects:

  • Looking after our planet.
  • Air pollution from aeroplanes.
  • Plastic pollution impacts fish and birds.
  • Stop littering – waste disposal.
  • Use of fossil fuels – burning coal and gas to make fuel.
  • Animal conservation.
  • Deforestation – cutting down trees affects our planet.
  • Record high temperatures dues to damage to the ozone layer.

The idea-gathering session took 30 minutes and produced some excellent ideas.  Surprisingly, the students had extremely limited knowledge about the damage caused by greenhouse gas to the atmosphere and the impact it was having on our lives right now. 

As a collective, we decided that the over-arching theme for the play-scheme would be looking after our planet and this would be further broken down into:



Learning outcome



To understand how microplastics are harming humans and animals.



To understand how litter is affecting our local community.


Eating sustainably

To understand the importance of eating sustainably.


IMPLEMENTATION – How did we achieve our aims?

In order to keep the focus on sustainability, we wanted to utilise a range of activities to keep the students motivated and engaged. This included:


Creative Arts

Cross-curricular English

Enrichment opportunities


Pebble art.


Survey on Powerhouse eco-friendly initiatives.


Trip to park to collect natural resources to create a collage.



Creating Bees to reflect how climate change is impacting bees.


Poetry on climate change.


Trip to Whitworth Park where the students met the Lord Mayor.


Creating a dance routine linked to nature and the importance of looking after the planet.


Design t-shirts encouraging others to look after our planet.

Sow the City leaf printing and creating a nature journal in Alexandra Park.



Printing leaves in clay to make imprints.

Debate on plastic – past or future?


Trip to Alexandra Park – litter- picking session.



Make bug hotels – reuse plastic bottles and resources.


Singing – make a song/ rap about looking after our planet.


Sports Day in the sports hall.


Tie-dye t-shirts.


Explicit teaching of vocabulary on climate change – critical, emissions, global warning, renewable energy, threaten human life, subsidies, moral responsibility, reuse, clean.


Visit to Hulme Garden Centre.



Make fruit kebabs.


Write a letter to the Lord Mayor asking her to make changes to help stop climate change.


Visit from Anne Tucker to discuss sustainability with the children.



Make fruit smoothies and recording the recipe.


Vegetable quiz in pairs.

Presentation by Elizabeth Gaskell Gardens on their sustainability project.



Decorate plant pots and plant seeds.

Writing questions on post-it notes to ask about vegetables.

Vegetable handling and tasting session.



Make mobiles reflecting the plastics in the oceans.


Design a healthy sandwich.

Make a healthy sandwich.




During the implementation phase, I felt that it was important that every activity that was undertaken had a purpose that linked to sustainability and that this was made explicit to the children. Every day, three circle sessions were planned, where children could participate in guided talks linked to sustainability.  These sessions lasted for 20 minutes but helped the children to link activities to the topic of sustainability. As the play-scheme progressed, more activities were developed to enrich the children’s learning.  In week one, the students met the Lord Mayor in an event at Whitworth Park.  This experience was later utilised to provide the children with a purpose for writing letters about climate change to the Lord Mayor.  Some of the students wrote amazing letters, which were shared at the showcase event at the end of the play-scheme.  In week two, it was clear that the majority of the children did not eat sustainably, as the majority of them said that they hate vegetables.  The children reported that their preferred meal of choice was MacDonalds.  I wanted the children to understand how eating beefburgers are impacting our own environment, so the learning in week three was tailored to focus on how we can eat more sustainably.  This meant liaising with the staff from the Gaskell Garden Project to provide the children with opportunities to explore how we can eat more sustainably and to try new foods.  This opportunity helped to enrich the children’s experiences, as they were provided with first hand experiences to touch and taste the vegetables.  During the play-scheme, there were a few occasions, where the weather was so hot that the children had to stay indoors, with one trip to Platts Fields Park being cancelled.  This experience helped the children to see the importance of climate change and how it could affect their day to day lives. The children’s learning culminated in a showcase event, where parents and carers were invited to watch their child perform and to find out what they had been learning about.  This gave the activities a “purpose”, as the students wanted to make sure that their parents understood the message of looking after our planet through sustainability.




Upon reflection, I predicted that the children would lose interest in sustainability after two weeks, but this was not the case. Some children were so motivated that they went home and conducted additional research, which they brought in to share with the others.  I think a key reason for this was that each week there was a different focus so that the students explored a different aspect of sustainability.  This helped to broaden their experiences and to deepen their knowledge and skills.  There were several highlights of the play-scheme, which included a week focusing on food waste, where the children worked closely with the Gaskell Garden Project to explore and taste different vegetables, create their own healthy sandwich for lunch and a trip to the Hulme Garden Centre.  During the trip, the children ate vegetables from the plant, as well as decorating plant pots and planting seeds.  For some of our children, they have never had that experience before, so this helped them to link what their parents buy in supermarkets with real-life, which is so powerful.  Another highlight of the play-scheme was when the students undertook litter picking at Alexandra Park, where they managed to collect three bags of litter. A member of the public approached us to express her gratitude for us helping to look after our local environment.  I also observed a change in the students’ attitude towards the use of plastic, as they reduced the use of the vending machine at the Powerhouse and chose to bring in water bottles instead.


Feedback from the pupil voice session:

On the last day of the play-scheme, a pupil voice session was conducted to obtain the children’s learning from the play-scheme.  100% of 6–8-year-olds and 73% of 9–12 year olds rated the play-scheme either 4/5 or 5/5.  The following results were obtained:

The children learn the following in respond to the question, “What did you learn about climate change by attending the play-scheme?”

“I learnt about wasted food and the amount of plastic in the water,” said a girl, aged six.

“I learnt about recycling and plastic pollution,” said a girl aged eight.

“I learnt that climate change can affect our bodies and our health,” said a girl aged eight.

“I have learnt that recycling is good for the earth,” said a girl aged eight.

“I learnt that there are thousands of bits of plastic in the water,” said a boy aged ten.

“I learnt that climate change affects animals as much as humans,” said a boy aged ten.

“I learnt about microplastics, which I did not know existed,” said a boy aged ten.

“I learnt about how animals die from litter,” said a girl aged ten.

“I learnt not to litter and to not waste food,” said a boy aged twelve.

“I learnt that when you litter, you harm wildlife and hurting our home,” said a girl aged twelve.

From a staff perspective, I feel that we learnt a lot from the process, this included:

  • Listening to the children gave us an incredible insight into how they view the world.
  • Having a theme for the play-scheme made the activities purposefully and ensured that the learning was sequential and meaningful rather than random.
  • Having planned activities reduced behaviour issues.
  • Activities must be purposefully and the meaning is explicitly shared with the children.
  • Providing enrichment opportunities helps to embed the children’s learning.
  • Linking learning activities to the creative arts to ensure that all learning styles are catered for is essential.

One challenge that I faced was that some of the staff team did not “buy-into my vision”, with some staff showing their feelings to the children.  To overcome this obstacle, I spoke to the staff individually to ensure that they understood the purpose of the play-scheme.  They responded that a play-scheme has never been delivered in this way and it was new for them.  This feedback enabled me to reflect on how things might be done differently in the future.  Moving forwards, I would like all staff will be invited to a planning meeting, where sufficient time is allocated to plan and to fully share ideas.  This strategy would hopefully elevate any issues regarding vision or purpose, so that everyone is working for the same aim.


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