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Creating a better future

Carolyn O'Grady reports on the pilot for a special sustainability design award.

An award that encourages AS and A2 students to incorporate sustainable design in their coursework is being piloted in eight schools in England and Wales. "Designers are the ones who can make the most difference to the environment," says Eddie Norman, senior lecturer in design and technology at Loughborough University.

"But it can be difficult for students to connect design decisions to, say, the destruction of the ozone layers and other environmental issues. The scheme aims to support them in understanding the implications of design on the future environment."

The scheme doesn't involve any work over and above that required for AS or A2, though it could lead to a special sustainable design award.

The pilot award is run by the charity Intermediate Technology Development Group, in partnership with the Centre for Alternative Technology and Loughborough University. It is backed by examination boards and the Design and Technology Association.

Participating organisations create design briefs which students choose from. They include, for example, one from Loughborough University entitled "reduce, re-use and recycle", which asks students to do just that with a number of products such as torches or bicycle lights.

At Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby, Warwickshire, students have already started working on designing a portable carrier for vets to use in Kenya. "It's given them a live situation to investigate and a project which asks them to look at design with sustainability in mind," says Paul Cooper, the school's head of design and technology.

Other projects include recyclable furniture for Third World schools and making packaging out of pulped paper.

Felicity Nicholson, head of design technology at Trinity RC Technology College in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, says: "It's also a fascinating way of introducing citizenship. Students can explore environmental, economic, social and moral issues in the world within design and technology".

Students are given feedback and participating schools receive help from the backing organisations. A student working on the Kenya project, for example, would need to know something about the load vets carry, the terrain and the materials available in Kenya.

Teachers also attend a training day and students a study weekend where sustainability specialists introduce them to tools such as the Eco Indicator '99, which scores a product or material according to its eco-friendliness.

From early next year, plans to expand the project will be sent to all schools with AS and A2 candidates.

Intermediate Technology Development GroupTel: 01926 634400 Email: Schools in Wales contact Ann MacGarry, Centre for Alternative Technology Tel: 01654 705983 Email:

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