Discovery Weeks: Full climate protection programme

An opportunity for adults and children to undertake research and learn together: that’s the Discovery Weeks approach to education – focusing on nature and technology, energy, climate and environment in the district of Gütersloh. The programme offered by the Bildungsbüro (Education Office) and the Koordinierungsstelle Energie und Klima (Coordination Centre for Energy and Climate) is aimed at children from nursery school level to year 6, as well as at educational specialists and teachers. Topics related to the children’s home environment are also covered – from saving energy to consumer behaviour, right through to climate-friendly transport. In 2017, the programme’s first year, there were 46 events – this year there have already been more than 70 activities.

Promoting education and sustainable development: the diverse programme of activities focusing on natural, technological, climatic and environmental phenomena has lasted more than half a year. The children have been busy doing scientific experiments, learning about climate-friendly options for cooking and transport, avoiding and recycling waste, saving energy and studying climate change. They worked together in small teams, recorded possible solutions and reflected on their own behaviour. The adults were always there to facilitate the activities and to provide motivation and support. Most of the educational specialists and teachers received inspiring ideas and support materials in advance through topic-based training courses provided by the Education Office, as a partner in the ‘Haus der kleinen Forscher’ (Little Scientists’ House) Foundation.

Engine for progress:

  • Centrally organised programme increases visibility and participation
  • Training courses for educational specialists and teachers based on NRW’s educational plans and local programmes
  • The focus on the children’s everyday lives ensures direct involvement in climate protection

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Photo: Kreis Gütersloh

Learning about water through play.

Wide range of activities on offer

In the first half of 2018, a large number of children and their teachers were involved in the Discovery Weeks programme: a total of 280 teachers received training in the MINT disciplines (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology) and in topics related to climate education. One hundred eighty children participated in sessions on climate-friendly cooking and studied the production, transport and packaging of food. More than 3,750 children took part in the ‘Kindermeilen’ (Kids on the move) campaign and made their journeys to kindergarten or primary school using climate-friendly means of transport for at least one week. One thousand children were made aware of the options for saving energy and water in the home and got actively involved in these activities.

Children learn with their parents and teachers

The activities offered are also intended to bear fruit at home: for example, children built insect hotels with the help of their parents, grandparents and siblings, and changes in biodiversity, caused by climate change amongst other things, were highlighted during the activity. In addition, everyone received tips on how they could take action at home – from saving energy to adopting more sustainable consumer habits, right through to using more climate-friendly means of transport.
Educational specialists and teachers are offered regular further training on an annual basis in the MINT disciplines, in climate education measures and climate-friendly transport, thus building on their previous training. Participants also receive information about extra-curricular activities that are offered in the region, and there is a high level of interest in these opportunities for further training.

Successful format

During the course of the first year, nearly 4,500 children and 400 adults were involved in the events. Interest in this format is increasing and 7,500 people have already taken part in 2018. Further events will also take place after the summer holidays in 2018 – which is actually outside of the timeframe of the project. A decisive factor contributing to the success of the project is the fact that the Education Office and the Coordination Centre for Energy and Climate in Gütersloh communicate and coordinate the events on a centralised basis. This leads to greater awareness and more transparency in terms of the climate education measures and therefore results in higher levels of participation than could be achieved if activities were offered on an individual basis.

Photo: Kreis Gütersloh

“Our Discovery Weeks are intended to captivate children’s interest and inspire them to ask questions, to experiment and to search for solutions. This strengthens key skills and encourages children to take a stance on topics relating to our climate, nature and the environment at an early stage. Our motto is: sparking curiosity and discovering things in a fun and enjoyable way is a great approach to learning and understanding!”

Ingrid Weitzel (Education Office) and Kim Nadine Ortmeier (Coordination Centre for Energy and Climate), organisers of the Discovery Weeks in the district of Gütersloh

Partners and sponsors

  • District of Gütersloh – Education Office
  • District of Gütersloh – Coordination Centre for Energy and Climate
  • Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit (BmUB)
  • Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit (BmUB)