Review of the Climate Challenge Fund - Appendix C: Case Studies Report

This report reviews the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), a Scottish Government scheme that supports communities to take action to address climate change.

Eco Drama's Magic Van Tour

Project value High (£130,295 - £450,000)
Duration Three years
Refresh Elements Deepen: Mature group, previously funded by CCF
Topic(s) Energy Efficiency, Transport, Food, Waste

Project Details

Background to group

Established in 2007, Eco Drama is a theatre company which engages, entertains and inspires people of all ages to value and care for the natural world. It consists of one full-time and two part-time staff members, and utilises the skills and services of a range of freelancers. The organisation delivers innovative theatrical productions and creative learning workshops to schools, festivals, theatres and community venues across Scotland, touring in a vehicle run on renewable biodiesel. Eco Drama also creates resource packs and continuous professional development teacher training, linked to Education Scotland's 'Curriculum for Excellence' (CFE), to ensure a legacy of learning and practical action. (In 2015, following completion of the project, Eco Drama changed its name to Whirlybird Theatre Company, with Eco Drama remaining the title of their schools touring programme.)

Reasons for project and inspiration

The Magic Van Tour project was an innovative response to nursery, primary and secondary schools in Glasgow who wanted to engage with the Sustainable Development component of the CFE through creative learning experiences. Using their experience as theatre-makers and learning practitioners to inspire practical action by engaging both 'hearts and minds', Eco Drama set out to explore imaginative ways to design and deliver activities that seek to instil connections with nature among target audiences. The project appealed to the deepen refresh theme; Eco Drama is a mature community group previously funded by CCF. It also received additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund, a £10k top-up grant to support 'The Worm' theatre show; and from Forth Environmental Link, to enhance the orchard planting event to take place in Townhead, Glasgow.

Aims and approach

The main aim of the project was to raise awareness among children and others (including teachers, parents and community groups) of environmental issues and, specifically among schoolchildren, of practical actions to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Project community outcomes concerned: improving understanding of food production and associated impacts (e.g. food miles); seasonality and local distinctiveness among schoolchildren; inspiring food growing through orchard planting; and, encouraging biodiversity and increased community engagement. Project CO2 outcomes concerned: encouraging more participation by schoolchildren in activities relating to efficient material use (three Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and energy consumption at both school and home; reducing 'school run' car use and increasing the adoption of alternative active travel options; and cutting food waste in schools.

Achieving Behaviour Change

The target audience for the project were children and others (including teachers, parents and community groups). These were a good fit for Eco Drama to engage with and influence given the type of services that the organisation had historically delivered. Interestingly, the Inspiring Learning Framework, as devised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, was used to classify and facilitate the assessment of qualitative data relating to project outcomes.

Events undertaken to realise behaviour change included:

  • The Forgotten Orchard - a theatrical production highlighting the importance of local and seasonal food: in this case, apples.
  • Orchard training / planting - undertaken at schools and with local community members on waste ground at Townhead Village Hall, Glasgow.
  • The Worm - a musical production focusing on composting food waste.
  • The Worm Inspectors - an assembly performance and interactive session, allowing children to understand the relationship between food waste and worms in the production of compost.
  • Other theatrical productions and workshops - concerning (non-food) waste ('Recycling Heroes'), energy and transport ('Eco Gadgets'), climate change and sustainability ('The Isle of Egg') and all of the above plus fossil fuels ('The Oil of Life').

A summary of the project activities, measures and behaviour change findings arranged in terms of ISM contexts is as follows.


  • Workshops, training and events designed to explain the impacts of action/inaction. These encouraged enduring behaviour change relating to climate change (i.e. reduced material and energy use, active travel, waste reduction and local food production) among the target audience.
  • Theatre productions that empowered children to take responsibility for their actions and to work collectively as agents of change.


  • Sought to enable schools / teachers to inspire young people to undertake positive steps to realise long-term/enduring environmental behaviour change.
  • Collaborative work with schools (through an initial survey to establish project objectives), freelance actors (e.g. on 'The Forgotten Orchard' and 'The Worm' theatrical productions) and others (e.g. Andrew Lear - The Appletreeman - on orchard training and planting) to deliver project outcomes.
  • Encouraged children to influence choices made by parents in relation to transport, waste and energy use.


  • Orchards and biodiverse green spaces created and composters provided to schools to reduce food waste being sent to landfill. Both of these are an enduring project legacy.

Successes and Benefits

Project delivery and development

Eco Drama conducted a community consultation process speaking directly to teachers and asking them what support on sustainability / environmental education they were seeking. The response was for help meeting the requirements of the Eco Schools programme in relation to the environment in general and food (including growing and waste) in particular. This project, built on the content and successes of a previous CCF project, was shaped to address this feedback.

Community and wider benefits

Eco Drama held a community orchard planting event over two days at Townhead Village Hall, Glasgow. With expert guidance from event partner Andrew Lear - the Appletreeman - over 70 volunteers aged from three to 70 participated and helped to plant 30 Scottish heritage fruit trees. The event also included other community activities (e.g. apple press and cake stall, face painting, sing-along and live music) and culminated in a performance of 'The Forgotten Orchard'. Participants fed back that this was a fun, educational event for children and, through emphasising the importance of the environment, it contributed to community cohesion and spirit.

Carbon Calculations

Eco Drama developed a bespoke online tool - the Carbon Calculator - for estimating CO2 emission reductions resulting from behaviour change. These estimates were based on answers provided by schoolchildren to surveys issued three months before and after the visit took place. The Carbon Calculator utilised Defra Business Conversion Factors and data from Keep Scotland Beautiful's Low Carbon Route Maps. Survey questions sought to understand behaviours relating to transport (active travel to school more than once a week), energy (not putting home video games consoles on standby after use) and recycling (of paper/card, metals, glass, plastic and packaging). Once behaviour change data was inputted online, schoolchildren were able to view a visual graph of before and after behaviours and appreciate the impacts of their behaviours. Data collected throughout the project (with a response rate of 31%) confirmed that CO2 emissions were reduced through project activities by approximately 1,065 tonnes.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Project development

Core staff recruitment / retention (from previous projects, where continuity funding could not be guaranteed), role definition and task distribution, and ensuring that sufficient time is allocated to plan and implement the project were identified by the project team as key areas of learning and reflection.


Although the Carbon Calculator was designed to produce a paper-free and interesting way for both teachers and schoolchildren to engage with the topic of low carbon behaviour change, it was underutilised. Some teachers were not aware of its existence, despite having been contacted about it. Others claimed to have no access at work to the internet. It was agreed that a review of communication techniques and IT provision at target audience schools would help to alleviate barriers to tool uptake going forward.

Reporting and impact

Mostly, gathering primary data (e.g. from energy monitors, by measuring 'school run' distances) was found to be very difficult due to the age range of pupils targeted and the project scale (i.e. number of schools engaged with). This made reporting non-qualitative project impacts challenging. However, school food waste monitoring was easier as this activity took place onsite.

Legacy / Looking Forward

It was established that, through speaking to schoolchildren, education through theatre and drama provided memorable 'heart and mind' experiences and increased the potential for enduring behaviour change. Similarly, active engagement in project workshops (supported by classroom activity packs and take-home materials, including seeds for home food growing) encouraged schoolchildren to have ongoing agency in environmental issues.

Orchards planted throughout the project at Townhead Village Hall and at 35 primary schools throughout Glasgow, will continue to flourish in future years, providing heritage fruit for communities to eat and sell. Furthermore, Eco Drama will continue touring with the programme of productions/events in future years, reaching new audiences throughout Scotland.



Email: Debbie Sagar

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