Dancing for a Green Future

04 Mar 2013

Georgia Tindale, a Sixth Form student from Bootham School – an independent Quaker school in York – describes a climate change ‘flash mob’ takeover of school assembly.

Picture this: a Saturday morning school assembly, or “Morning Meeting as we call it, and with the exception of the projector screen in place to show a video, everything seems normal. It’s a good thing too, as our highly respectable Governors are seated at the back today, watching. The silence stretches on undisturbed, but a particular group of students is buzzing with anticipation. After what seems to us like hours, the music video starts and “Where the hell is Matt?” (which can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk) appears on the screen. For those readers who’ve somehow missed this YouTube sensation, Matt jets around the world, befriends and dances with the local people and then puts the videos online where they are watched and loved by millions. At the agreed 3 minutes 39 seconds into the video, and to the total surprise of the Meeting, our little group spring to our feet and join in with the dancing. Despite earlier efforts in rehearsals, limbs are flailing everywhere and we’re not completely in time but we’re loving the feeling of all acting together.

However, the biggest surprise is yet to come. The dancing students are members of our environmental action group BEAST (Bootham Environmental and Sustainability Team) and some of their obliging friends. Although some braver members have told their year groups about a possible “flash mob” on Saturday morning, and tried to persuade them to join in, we are not expecting many other people to get up and strut their stuff in Morning Meeting. We could hardly have been more wrong. There must have been something empowering about the sounds of “Trip the Light” sung by Alicia Lemke, the song which accompanied the video, combined with our practiced dance moves, which pushed the Bootham students beyond their embarrassment threshold. And not only them, but our Head and Deputy Head joined in too, to the considerable entertainment of the student body. The disappointment on the Head’s face when the song ended was a picture. We all left the Meeting feeling exulted.

You might be wondering by now where this story is going. Of course it’s great that we managed to rouse sleepy teenagers – not to mention the teaching staff – from their chairs, but how will that help tackle the serious problems of climate change? Well, the difficulty our environmental group has often faced is how to avoid preaching at students while still getting across a deeply important message. Ahead of us was an important campaign – ‘Switch-Off-Fortnight’ – which challenged us to cut the school’s use of electricity and gas for two weeks. This seemed to us the perfect solution; we could link the video to the environment and simultaneously show how much can be achieved, and how much fun it is, if we all work together. At the end of the video we had a slide saying “Let’s work together for Switch-Off-Fortnight!” We needed everyone to take up the challenge and we’d learnt that to win people over it’s often best not to take yourself too seriously. Happily for us, it did work! We saw a decrease of 9% on electricity alone throughout the school.

Was our dancing the main reason for this, or was it the tireless work of our BEAST and Eco-Reps in switching off lights and encouraging others to follow suit? Whatever the cause, we hope the result was a lasting impression that with the right support and motivation, you can make something amazing happen. All you need is the courage to start it yourself, and others will follow you.