Lessons about Heat

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Children’s fairytales for energy efficiency

Teaching children about efficient energy use

Air pollution is a problem in many cities across Europe, impacting on citizens’ health and quality of life. It is particularly a concern in Poland, where smog caused by the burning of fuel, and even rubbish, affects a number of towns and cities. A pioneering project is addressing this issue, working with young people to inform and educate the next generation about energy use.

Having started in 2015, Lessons about Heat provides educational resources for schools that engage children through storytelling on energy issues, encouraging them to use energy as efficiently as possible. The project is working with schools nationwide, reaching an estimated 300,000 children.

Harnessing the power of storytelling

Run by the Polish District Heating Chamber of Commerce, the project has developed teaching materials that build factual information into traditional fairy tales.

In this material, which targets children aged 7-8 years old, the well-loved Little Red Riding Hood story is repurposed so that it can be used to teach readers lessons about energy use. For example, one book, “Little Red Riding Hood in the City” portrays the protagonist and her grandmother living in a town just a few stops away by tram. Throughout the narrative, the authors use traditional characters to explain how heat is produced and how to use it properly – for instance by turning off the heating when apartment windows are open.

The project team chose to use storytelling as fun and engaging way to get children interested in energy issues. “We awaken the children’s imagination through a fairy tale and make it easier to remember the things we want to convey,” said Sebastian Piechocki, Lessons about Heat project manager.

The books, illustrated by the Polish artist Dorota Szoblik, are accompanied by additional educational material. Content has also been developed for older children aged 10-11 years old. The response from schools has been enthusiastic—and creative— with some developing theatre shows based on the books, or inviting city authorities, including mayors, to take part.

Driving change in energy use

An important part of the Lessons about Heat project is encouraging children to share information with their families, with the aim of also reducing unnecessary energy consumption in households. In this way, children become ambassadors for efficient energy use in their homes, spreading the information they have gained to family and friends. “When children receive lessons about electricity, they want to make sure their parents turn off the lights,” said Piechocki.

Through these lessons, the project team hopes that using energy efficiently will become a normal reflex for the children throughout their lives. “By teaching them correct behaviours at this age, we create healthy habits for the future” said Piechocki. Influencing children’s behaviour as they grow into adulthood is a key aim for the project as in the near future, they will be the ones making choices about heating, not only in their home but perhaps in their communities, too. “The children are the future users of energy, the future consumers of energy. They will make decisions on how they are going to heat their homes,” Piechocki said.