To find out whether or not you are successfully achieving the targets laid out in your Action Plan, you must monitor and measure your progress.
Guidelines from Foundation for Environmental Education:
As well as allowing you to judge the success of your activities and plan any necessary changes, a continuous monitoring process will help you to make sure that interest in the program is maintained throughout the school.
Monitoring and evaluating the progress of your Eco-Schools work is an excellent opportunity to incorporate curricular links (Step 5 of the Eco Schools Program Methodology), particularly in the areas of Maths, Computer Science and English, as well as developing other skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and team working.
The monitoring methods that you use will depend on the targets and measurement criteria decided on in your Action Plan for the topics you wish to look at and the age and ability of the pupils and other individuals who will carry it out.
In some cases there will be easy and accurate ways to measure progress. These can include:
- measuring the school’s global footprint – a wonderful way of producing real data to show how effective your actions have been. This can be done for one, or several, Eco-Schools topic areas, namely; Waste, Energy, Travel, and Water
- meter readings and calculation of energy bill savings – to show the effect of energy-saving action
- weighing/counting litter items or waste collected for recycling- to show the effects of litter/recycling initiatives before, during and after photographs – to show the progress of specific initiatives
- before and after species lists – to show the effect of biodiversity/school grounds developments
- using questionnaires and surveys to canvass opinions/record data
As always, pupils should be given the responsibility for carrying out monitoring activities wherever possible. This will help to foster a greater sense of ownership of the school’s eco work. The Eco-Schools Committee should also ensure that:
- the results of the monitoring exercises are displayed for everyone in the school to see (e.g. in graphs, charts)
- the entire school is kept up to date with the progress towards achieving agreed eco objectives, perhaps with ongoing results or figures posted on the Eco-Schools noticeboard, or by celebrating the achievement of a target in assemblies
- data is stored on an ongoing basis, so that when you apply for an Eco-Schools Award, you can use it as part of your evidence
Evaluation follows on from monitoring. Evaluating the success of your activities will allow you to make changes to your Action Plan if required.
Your monitoring data will help you to identify if your eco work is on target or not and whether it has been effective or ineffective. You can then decide if changes to your initial targets or activities are required and what these should involve.
One very effective way of evaluating your targets is, for example, to carry out a full follow-up Environmental review, this is in effect a repeat of your original Environmental Review and you can use the same Review document. Comparing your new responses with those that you originally made will give you a clear indication of the school’s overall progress towards its eco targets and will help you to plan future objectives.
Also make sure that when targets are met, success is celebrated! Celebration is a powerful motivating agent. Celebrate your school’s achievements as widely as possible through newspaper articles, newsletters, during school functions AND within the wider local community. Besides generating a general feeling of well-being that maintains the momentum of the project going, these celebrations provide a great opportunity for the promotion of Eco-Schools