Role reversal: Students educating teachers on climate change

International Grammar School students Maddy Hayen and Hugh Gibbons at the Climate Fresk workshop with the IEU’s Neal Bent, Liam Crisanti, Katie Camarena, Lee Cunningham and David Whitcombe

In early April, IEU staff participated in a Climate Fresk workshop facilitated by two students from International Grammar School (IGS) in Ultimo.

Maddy Hayen and Hugh Gibbons are both members of the IGS Sustainable Futures Club which is run by IEU member and IGS Head of Sustainability, Carmelo Fedele.

Through Sustainable Futures, Fedele encourages students to take the lead on sustainability initiatives within the school and beyond. Now he has taken his students on a new journey – training them as facilitators to deliver participatory educational workshops on climate science.

Fedele became aware of Climate Fresk through professional development training. “I liked it so much that I trained to be a facilitator,” Fedele said.

“I then delivered the course to students. They loved it and really engaged with it. So we then ran a facilitators’ course for the students.”

The workshop at the IEU was the first one the students facilitated. “It’s very exciting,” Fedele said.

IGS Head of Sustainability Carmelo Fedele

What is Climate Fresk?

When Maddy and Hugh said “Let’s Fresk!”, IEU staff David Whitcombe, Lee Cunningham, Neal Bent, Liam Crisanti and Katie Camarena were guided through a workshop that challenged their knowledge of climate science.

Climate Fresk is a powerful collaborative tool designed to increase understanding of the causes and effects of climate change. Participants work constructively together to assemble a large fresco (‘fresk’) from a deck of 42 cards with images on the front and established scientific facts on the back.

More than 1.5 million people in 157 countries have taken part in a workshop since 2018, when French lecturer in energy and climate, Cedric Ringenbach, founded the Climate Fresk non-profit organisation.

Climate Fresk’s vision is to create a “network of people that is growing exponentially who can pass on quality climate education in order to reach a social tipping point that will help guide us to a low carbon world”.

Australia’s biggest Climate Fresk

Under Fedele’s guidance, students from IGS will soon facilitate the biggest Climate Fresk in Australia to date. Maddy, Hugh and their peers will help run a Fresk for all staff at IGS – about 180 participants – with half of the facilitators being students from Sustainable Futures.

Maddy is in her final year at IGS and is the Sustainability Leader. “I was part of School Strike for Climate, organising the student strikes,” she said. “They encouraged us to do stuff within our own schools. So I joined Sustainable Futures.”

Hugh became involved after taking part in a waste audit in year 5 or 6. “I started to learn about all the problems we have with climate change,” he said. “Ever since then I have been interested in the concept of sustainability.”

Climate change is union business. Through our Environment Committee, the IEU is proud to support IEU members and young people tacking action to tackle climate change.

You can find out more about the IEU’s environment and sustainability initiatives on our

We also invite you to join our Facebook group for environment educators:

Katie Camarena