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Primary Parliament Spring Term!

We had a great time at the City Council House once again with this Spring Primary Parliament, with two main themes to explore: the first, What does nature mean to you? A topic to open up conversations about nature and think about what we mean when we talk about nature, and how that can change what we do to protect it.

This first theme was inspired by the research of Dr. Christian Morgner Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries at Sheffield University. Dr. Morgner is fascinated by understanding the differences in the way people communicate ideas about nature for example during COP 26, when people from around the world discuss nature with very different understandings of what this means to them individually. By trying to understand this, we are better able to work together to protect what’s important to us, as well as understand the breadth of biodiversity on the planet. Through discussions with Dr. Morgner and from our experience of Primary Parliament we thought that the Spring term would be a great opportunity to gain young people's perspectives on this topic.

The second theme looked at safer transport for the city, thinking about how we can redesign neighborhoods to make them safer places to move around. This activity led by the Nottingham City Council’s transport team explored safety, environmentally friendly transport options, rewilding spaces, setting up schemes with schools and creating child friendly methods of transport for children in their neighborhoods.

Pupils arrived from 14 schools, over two days, to meet at the City Council House in the Ballroom. The Primary Parliament team created them there and Jon Rae from Nottingham City Council, gave introductions to the themes and plan for the day. The Pupils decided which activity they would like to take part in and split into two groups so that at least one pupil from each school could experience each activity, this also gave them the opportunity to meet and work with pupils from other schools from across the county.

The group working on the question ‘ What does nature mean to you?’ Were led by the team from Ignite! First of all they were given a task to explore Old Market Square and the surrounding area of the Council House. They each had a clipboard and prompt sheet which led them in their investigations. They were asked to use all of their senses to find and document evidence of nature in the square. What could they see, small, feel and hear? Sadly the first day was a cold and gray one, so nature was not so easy to find, however with persistence the groups found pockets of nature lining the square. They saw shrubs, heard pigeons, felt spiky plants and smelled rain (as well as the occasional gust of KFC ) Thankfully the sun came out on day two.

They then moved back indoors and looked for evidence of nature inside the building, finding that in fact the potted plants, marble staircases and wooden walls all contain natural materials that might not be immediately obvious. Once inside the group used their findings to create large collaborative drawings to share their ideas, showing: what nature looks like to them and what they would like to see more of in their City.

After some group discussion and sharing with the wider group, pupils were then asked to refine their ideas by creating a design for one small ceramic tile painting each. These paintings would be collected at the end of the day and will form an exhibition on the Old Market Square during the Green Hustle Festival 2-4 June 2023. On the third day of Primary Parliament we were joined by pupils from two special schools who took part in an online version of this Nature themed workshop. Pupils were sent resources in the post to create some fantastic tile designs and enthusiastically shared their ideas over Teams. All schools will receive invitations to encourage pupils and families to visit the work during the Green Hustle festival.

Pupils put a lot of thought and effort into their designs and created a collection showing different aspects of nature, their interests in it and messages about it that they would like to share with the public. The tiles will look brilliant on the square during the festival! Some stand out pieces being a collaboration between two pupils displaying an adjoining bird design, a drawing of a boy being surrounded by nature and a diagram showing the life cycle of a plant.

The second group were hard at work with the Transport for the City team in the Ballroom. Pupils from different schools were paired up based on their locality eg. Bulwell/St Ann’s/Bilborough, so that they could look at maps of their local areas. After pinpointing key locations in their neighborhood, pupils thought about how they might travel between different places, what transport they could use, which areas they don’t go to and which areas they would like to go to more frequently and then worked to redesign the maps with their visions for a safer city.

Conversations in this group traveled as easily as a commuter on their redesigned maps, with pupils covering topics from adding green spaces, play parks and cycle lanes to implementing new schemes at their school to encourage environmental care and offering rewards for using carbon neutral transport options. Suggestions were made to install Cookie monster bins near schools to make using them more fun for children, adding extra storage lockers in schools for bikes, rollerblades and skateboards, and even a suggestion for no driving zones surrounding schools to make them cleaner and safer.

At the end of the day both groups were tasked with presenting their ideas, in an exhibition style format, to pupils and staff from the opposite group. For these presentations we were joined by special guests: Bulwell Forest Ward Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Dr. Christian Morgner Founder of Ignite! Rick Hall and Child Friendly City – Nottingham Programme Lead Ekua Ghansah. The pupils pitched their ideas passionately to their teachers, confidently suggested ambitious plans to local councilors and visiting guests and proudly presented ideas for positive change in their local neighborhoods.


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