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Don't mess with the Forres eco-warriors

All Applegrove pupils want for Christmas is a healthy planet. Jean McLeish reports.There will be no respite for the parents of some pupils at Applegrove Primary. What this class won't know about energy efficiency after today isn't worth knowing.

And if the mums and dads of Forres don't know how to save the planet, the newly energised vigilantes from P7 will put them right.

For the past two hours they have been playing bingo and card games aimed at getting the message across about climate change and saving energy. They've talked about global warming and its consequences; they have seen how solar power works and how wind can be harnessed to create energy.

And when they get home - their families are going to know all about it. Curtains will be closed to keep heat in, TVs and computers will no longer be left on standby and plugs will be put in sinks when hot water is run. And in some homes, life will never be the same.

That's part of the theory behind this pilot educational project being staged at 100 schools in the Highlands and Islands in the run-up to Christmas. Children will learn, but they will also take the message back to their families. They have already begun considering environmental issues through the Eco Schools programme, for which they have been awarded Green Flag status. So Eco monitors have been at work checking lights and computers are switched off after classes leave.

Workshops are being run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise as part of a year-long public information campaign on renewable energy and climate change across communities in their region. The sessions are being delivered by Community Service Volunteers, who also roll out the Eco Schools Scotland programme.

Ann Davidson, from CSV's rural environmental action group in Keith, is leading the session in the hall at Applegrove Primary. The school stands in the middle of a vast grassy playground, and around the side is their vegetable garden and the greenhouse pupils made from plastic bottles as part of their Eco School endeavours.

Ms Davidson begins by finding out how much they know about climate change and global warming: "Why is it a problem that the climate's getting hotter" she asks them. "The ice is melting. The polar bears will die. Animals will become extinct," they call out. "Does anyone know the greenhouse gases that are making the earth warmer?" she continues. A few false starts and someone comes up with CO2.

Then it's eyes down for a game of bingo for P7. The game is like bingo, except the children are working with energy-saving slogans instead of numbers. Ten-year-old Lisa Sutherland pulls out one and reads: "Wear an extra jumper instead of turning the heat up," which sounds like a weekend with the Queen at Balmoral. Her friend Louise Cameron pauses at the next one: "Fit individual the ... therm? Oh - thermostats on the radiators," she pronounces triumphantly.

In the grounds, Ms Davidson demonstrates an anemometer to measure wind force, but typically there is barely a breath of wind and she has to get the pupils to blow on it to produce any movement.

Each school involved in the pilot gets a pack with the games and science-based experiments to illustrate the operation of renewable energy resources. The kit also shows them how to make their own wind and water turbines, solar panels and how anemometers work.

P7 teacher Lesley Maclennan says this will be handy when the class learns about energy as part of its environmental studies work next term. "Anything practical when you are doing this kind of topic is excellent. You can split pupils into groups and they can investigate it, rather than me standing talking about it. It switches them on."

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