Science - Creative climatology

2nd March 2012 at 00:00
Design and environment - mix them up and spark debate

As a communications designer, I had often wondered whether creative learning could play a role in environmental awareness.

In my quest to find out, I created a series of collaborative projects under the banner Creative Data, which linked designers, scientists, universities, enterprises and schools. In collaboration with the University of East Anglia, I began with The Butterfly Effect, which looks at current and future land use in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

Ten primary schools have taken up the baton. Children look at maps of their area and ask questions including "Where are the Broads?", "What do people do there?" and "How have they changed over time?"

Pupils are then asked to imagine what this landscape might look like in the future and what role climate change might play, and to express this through drawing, collage, photography and creative-writing activities.

We have devised an illustrated education pack to give teachers introductory training. Activities revolve around a large map. Each school has a section of it, which children decorate with stickers representing local land use - a boat, a tractor, a butterfly - and speech bubble stickers on which they can write ideas about how to look after the Broads in the future. At the end of the project the map will be reassembled.

Water use is an important part of the project and each school is engaged in a weekly water challenge that raises awareness of how we use this precious resource.

I feel I have gone some way towards answering the question that inspired this project. We are now broadening our work to offer similar schemes to schools across the UK.

Leonora Oppenheim is a design storyteller. As director of Elio Studio, she founded Creative Data in 2009. Lucy Rose, a geographer from the University of Exeter, helped to devise The Butterfly Effect education pack.

What else?

Explore the environment with your pupils this Climate Week (12-18 March).

The Butterfly Effect project, funded by Anglian Water and the Broads Authority, has a number of online resources.

Help pupils to make a link between the things they do and the consequences of climate change with KEA 100's loop game.

Or try Science Museum Learning's activities and games for some creative climate change challenges.


Take a look at a long-running thread on the TES science forum where teachers share tried-and-tested ways to make science fun.

For all links and resources visit

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