Eggar’s students exploring ocean worms

The second Young ACAN Schools’ Eco Conference took place on Monday 1st July at the Alton Maltings, bringing together 95 students from 11 local schools, including Eggar’s and Amery and nine primary schools.  The theme for this year’s conference was ‘From Me to the Sea’ with the aim of teaching young people about why it is important to protect our watery ecosystems, from our local River Wey to the oceans.

Founded in 2021, Young ACAN is the youth group of ACAN (Alton Climate Action Network). Its key objective is to give young people in the local community a voice for nature and the environment either through its work with the Young ACAN ambassadors or through collaboration with local schools via its Young ACAN Partnership.

The conference launched with an introduction from Young ACAN lead and event organiser, Emma Jones. “What was particularly special about this year’s conference was the collaboration between the schools. The conference was planned by a team of local teachers. Through this collaboration, we are sharing the message to our young people that collectively we care about their future and want to equip them with the skills and knowledge which they need, now and in the future, to help protect our planet.” Emma’s speech was followed by a short presentation from Georgie Maw of the Final Straw Foundation who also led a thought-provoking workshop for secondary students called ‘Does one plastic bottle matter?” 

Bentley pupils make pledges to reduce ocean plastic

In total there were 9 different workshops centred around the following themes: science and nature, the arts and plastic and recycling.  Of the nine workshops, two were also linked with the Alton Arts Festival including making a recycled octopus using single-use plastic which is now on display at Alton College. 

Recycled plastic octopus workshop

Other workshops included a rare chance to explore life in the River Wey as well as our oceans using microscopes and magnifying glasses and a hands-on visit to the pop-up Fill Up shop led by owner Louise Bagnall. “It was fantastic to be asked to host a workshop at the Young ACAN Conference. All the children were knowledgeable and passionate about climate issues. It really brought home just how important what we are trying to achieve is; striving to build a sustainable future for their generation and generations to come.” 

To conclude the event, students were given the opportunity to use their voice to share what they had experienced and learnt with visiting parents and special guests which included EHDC Councillor Emily Young who funded the event.  Young ACAN’s Schools’ Eco Conference was declared a huge success by the workshop leaders, visiting students and their teachers. Alec, a Year 3 pupil at Bentley CE Primary School had this to say about the event, “I enjoyed the whole conference because it was fun. It was also really good to learn all about Young ACAN.”

Words: Emma Jones & Photos: Sophie Jones

Young ACAN Ambassadors lead a workshop about recycling
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