Climate craftivism in the classroom

Climate Craftivism in the Classroom’ is a project that aimed to investigate how creative pedagogies and activities in schools could open up and support conversations about climate change for young people across different areas of secondary school curricula.

For this project, a team of researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Education partnered with Kirsty Hammond from a local community organisation, Heart of BS13, which is based in Hartcliffe in South Bristol and local artist and puppeteer, Stephanie Reeves. Through Heart of BS13 community work, Kirsty and Steph had developed and run climate craftivist puppet-making workshops in primary schools around of South Bristol. This Brigstow-funded project aimed to build on this work and to tailor craftivism workshops for secondary school setting and trial them in schools around Bristol. The focus of these workshops was around how climate change may affect ocean environments, with sea life then being the stimulus for puppet-making workshop. We also worked with film company Pumpkin Interactive who filmed some of the workshops to create content for a toolkit for teachers.

What is craftivism and why use it in the classroom?

Craftivism, a term coined by Betsy Greer in 2002, combines the terms ‘craft’ and ‘activism’, and describes an act of creation, or making something, which is motivated by social justice or political activism (Greer 2014). For Rowsell and Shillitoe (2019, p.1158), craftivist pedagogy has the potential for “giving voice, defending rights, expanding autonomy and perhaps mostly importantly, opening up possibilities for young people.” We felt that puppet-making was a particularly useful pedagogical tool, as it allowed the students to engage with complex issues in a creative way that creates space for conversation during the making process. Indeed, Kröger and Nupponen (2019, p. 394) have identified multiples benefits of puppet-making as pedagogical tools, including generating communication and changing attitudes. In the process, we found another important use of the puppet was that it allowed students to express their views through another creature. By speaking through their sea creature, students were able to communicate things that they may not choose to or feel comfortable saying  for themselves. In this way, Rousell and Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles’ (2020) call for young people to have ‘a voice and a hand’ in redressing climate change guided our approach – both metaphorically and literally!

The workshop design process

Steph and Kirsty’s existing puppet-making workshop was taken as the basis for this project’s workshops and the team collaboratively developed it for suitability for a secondary school classroom. Firstly, weheld a trial session with trainee teachers (primarily from English and Geography),education students and their tutors in the School of Education. The participants got stuck in and came up with some wonderfully creative sea creatures, along the way providing  lots of ideas as to how to make the session appropriate for a secondary school classroom.

A group of young adults playing with handmade animal puppets
Trial workshop with teachers-to-be in the School of Education

The school workshops

We ran the workshop in six secondary schools around Bristol, engaging a wide variety of demographics. In all of the workshops, once the students began making, the room filled with a buzz of energy. The vast majority of participants appeared engaged in the task and seemed to take pride in what they made. During the making process, conversations flourished. After completing their puppets, students were invited to write a message from their sea creature to humans. They were also encouraged to use their hand puppets to talk to one another’s sea creatures and share their thoughts about climate change. Some of these puppet shows were recorded by our videographers and will be made available soon!

a group of children in a classroom showing their handmade animal puppets to the camera.
The puppets made in one of the school workshops.
A selection of some of the sea creature puppets made by the students, and their messages.
A selection of some of the sea creature puppets made by the students, and their messages.

Sharing the message

A key feature of craftivism is communicating a message. After creating their puppets,  students had the opportunity to have them displayed at Sparks, the sustainability hub in the old M&S building in Broadmead. This meant their messages reached a wider audience and the students were able to visit the display over the summer holidays.

Posters and handmade puppets displayed on a gallery wall

Next steps

We are now working on the production of the toolkit for teacher to use to run craftivism sessions in their own classrooms. This will include a video guide and resources to use in the lesson. We are also writing up a journal article about our research. Finally, we are in the process of developing applications for future funding, possibly through the ESRC Impact Accelerator Account in order to share this project more widely and make the resources for teachers even better.

We hope that craftivism will be used as a tool in Climate Change Education (CCE) to support teachers and young people in having conversations to explore their thoughts and feelings around climate change, providing a supportive and engaging space to collaborate and discuss the changes they want to see. By giving the students a voice in CCE we hope to give them a sense of agency.


  • Greer, B. (2011) “Craftivist History” In Buszek, M. E. (Ed.). Extra/ordinary : craft and contemporary art. Duke University Press, pp.175-183.
  • Kröger, T., & Nupponen, a. (2019). Puppet as a Pedagogical Tool: A Literature Review. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 11, 1-14.
  • Rousell, D., & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. (2020). A systematic review of climate change education: Giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change. Children’s Geographies, 18(2), 191-208.
  • Rowsell, J., & Shillitoe, M. (2019). The craftivists: Pushing for affective, materially informed pedagogy. British journal of educational technology, 50(4), 1544-1559.