Cwricwlwm Ieithoedd Modern Gwyrddach i Gymru / A Greener Modern Languages Curriculum for Wales


The multilingual ‘natural mural’ created by pupils from Ysgol Clawdd Offa, Prestatyn and Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, Bethesda with French graphic artist Anne Defreville, as part of the project Cwricwlwm Ieithoedd Modern Gwyrddach i Gymru / A Greener Modern Languages Curriculum for Wales.

Environmental awareness, creativity, international language learning.

Cwricwlwm Ieithoedd Modern Gwyrddach i Gymru / A Greener Modern Languages Curriculum for Wales, a project which is funded by Bangor University’s Innovation and Impact Award Scheme, aims to develop creative approaches to fostering environmental sustainability in conjunction with international language learning. Working in partnership with GwE Global Futures, and award-winning French graphic artist Anne Defreville, in early May 2024 we organised innovative creative workshops with Year 5, 6, 8 and 10 pupils from across North Wales, with the overall aims to: 1) enable the students to develop an understanding of global environmental issues from diverse perspectives and gain a new perspective on how languages interact with other topics and the broader world; 2) foster their self-expression, agency and creativity and empower them to reflect on their own part in building a multilingual and sustainable Wales; 3) provide teachers with ideas to draw on and adapt to develop their own schemes of work in the context of the Curriculum for Wales, inspiring them to foster environmental awareness in conjunction with language learning in their educational practice.

Cwricwlwm Ieithoedd Modern Gwyrddach i Gymru / A Greener Modern Languages Curriculum for Wales is a local follow-on project from Greening Modern Languages, for which the EcoModLang website is the central hub, and which brings together a transnational network of scholars and educators working across language specialisms to reflect on the place of Modern Languages in collective action towards sustainability.

Wales – where I am based – provides the perfect environment to explore local impacts of this research. Indeed, the vision of a ‘greener’ Modern Languages that we are working towards finds strong resonance with this bilingual nation’s ground-breaking new Curriculum, with its focus on integral skills beyond subject divides, and whose integrated approach foregrounds languages as integral to enabling learners to become ‘ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world’ ( 2022). Bringing Modern Languages into the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience, the Curriculum highlights that they are crucial for fostering cultural awareness, including learners’ understanding of their Welsh identities in an international context. This is, of course, a world in which the climate crisis is and will be a key global challenge. Cwricwlwm Ieithoedd Modern Gwyrddach i Gymru / A Greener Modern Languages Curriculum for Wales draws on this holistic ethos to bring to the fore and into practice the powerful platform that language education provides to enable learners to develop their critical and creative understanding and engagement with global environmental issues from diverse perspectives. The project also finds strong resonance with Wales’ ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations Act, which foregrounds a collaborative long-term approach to improving well-being, for people and the planet.

68 pupils from schools across North Wales (Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, Bethesda; Ysgol David Hughes, Menai Bridge; Castell Alun High School, Wrexham; and Ysgol Clawdd Offa, Prestatyn) took part in the creative workshops that we (myself as Principal Investigation and my Bangor colleague and Co-Investigator Jonathan Lewis) organised in early May 2024.

On 1st and 2nd May 2024, we held two full-day workshops with Year 8 and Year 10 pupils, with the key aims to explore how creativity and international language learning can contribute to developing critical and creative environmental awareness, and how comics can be a tool for pupils to express how they feel about the environment. We first had a bilingual French-English seminar and Q&A with Anne Defreville, during which Anne talked about her extremely rich career, and how her creative practice is entangled with her profound commitment to ecology. This was followed by a very interesting discussion with the Year 8 pupils, about the roots of Anne’s environmentalism, which comes from early experiences of pollution in the Mediterranean; about ways in which the South of France is affected by the climate emergency; and how important it is to Anne to create art not just for entertainment, but for raising awareness about issues that matter to all of us, for people and the planet.

We then started the creative workshop by introducing the pupils to the medium of comics – how important it is as an art form in French and Belgian culture, how comics work, and crucially what they can do to raise awareness and understanding of environmental issues. We talked about the language, codes and resources of comics, using as examples not just the classic Franco-Belgian canon, but contemporary environmental bandes dessinées. For instance, in addition to Anne’s own comics, we talked about page layout and architecture (the size, shape and position of panels, and links between them) with Inès Léraud and Pierre van Hoye’s Algues vertes, which investigates green tides in Brittany as the result of the industrialisation of agriculture and factory farming. We discussed colour through Tetshim and Mukunday’s Machini, which is set in a fictionalised version of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is a profoundly original critique of (neo-)colonial extractivism, using recycled materials and rendering water, air and soil pollution through chromatic contamination. And we talked about text and image through Christelle Le Guen’s Anjela, a bilingual Breton-French comic about peasant-poet, eco-warrior and cultural activist Anjela Duval (on which see also this resource in the toolbox). In introducing the pupils to the codes and resources of comics through environmental comics, we wanted to already start thinking about how comics can be a tool for expressing how we feel and take a stand about environmental issues.

Equipped with an understanding of how the medium works, the pupils then created their own eco-bande dessinées. Anne presented a page that they could use as inspiration for narrative progression if they wished (a page that zooms in on a whale, ending on an extreme close-up of her eye and showing garbage reflected in it). The pupils had complete freedom in what story they wanted to tell – and draw – about the environment. We encouraged them to include text in French, which many of them did, to develop their French language skills and build their vocabulary as part and parcel of self-expression and communication about issues that matter to them.

Below is just a small sample of the brilliant eco-bandes dessinées that the pupils created.


On 3rd May, 15 primary school pupils took part in the creation of a multilingual ‘natural mural’, using biodegradable paint made from pigments and egg yolks. While Anne was explaining how she was making the paint, this allowed us to think about what we can make art with, and how we can be creative in a way that is non-toxic and sustainable.

Anne has created ‘natural murals’ with children in several places across the world, each a unique experience. One thing that is special about the one we created in Bangor, in line with the ethos of this project, is that it is a multilingual mural. While the mural was drying, the pupils were provided with a list of ecological slogans and phrases across languages and chose the one that most resonated with them. Each pupil then wrote their chosen phrase on the mural and signed it, as the message that they wanted to communicate about the environment.

This enabled us to think about how different languages and cultures think and talk about the environment, in the ways in which these slogans and phrases were both specific to their nature-cultures but also all communicated a key overall message – that we are part of nature and that we must care for it. This showed that international language learning can help us not only understand environmental issues from different perspectives, but also develop our critical and creative engagement with the more-than-human world, and express how we feel and take a stand about what we believe in.

Here are details of some of the ecological phrases that the pupils chose to write on the mural:


Feedback from the pupils and teachers who took part in these activities during the residence was very positive.

Here are some comments from teachers:

  • ‘a really enjoyable day and I think the pupils got a lot out of it’
  • ‘[the pupils] get to see French used for a purpose, they also get to focus on issues that are essential to their future.’
  • ‘[these activities fill] a massive gap in education, where the children learn through real life, hands on experiences, meeting people from different cultures with real experiences to tell’
  • ‘they’ve learnt so much – as a teacher it was lovely to see all the cross-curricular ways it was delivered’
  • ‘covers cross-curricular aspects of the new Curriculum for Wales really well. Excellent sessions’

Here are some comments from pupils who took part in comics workshops:

  • ‘I really enjoyed today and I had a great time’
  • ‘I believe that learning about the environment in other lessons, can help people to explore other aspects of the environment from different views. I really enjoyed all the activities today and I learned how people’s actions can affect our world and the lives of animals’
  • ‘I enjoyed the activities and how creative we could be’

Here are some comments from the pupils who took part in the creation of the multilingual natural mural:

  • ‘I think it helped get a better understanding of climate change and should be offered to more students’
  • ‘I loved it’
  • ‘I never knew how much I liked painting’
  • ‘I think it’s wonderful’
  • ‘diolch am y profiod yma’

This was also an extremely rewarding experience for us, in seeing what our vision of a Greener Modern Languages can look like, locally and in practice. We are hoping to be able to organise follow-on activities in the near future, using the multilingual natural mural as a catalyst for further conversations about ways in which we can embed environmental awareness, creativity and international language learning.

My warmest thanks to Stephanie Ellis-Williams from GwE for her expert advice and support for the project from the very start; all the pupils and teachers who took part in the activities during the residence, for their enthusiasm and all the brilliant creative works; my Modern Languages and Cultures colleagues at Bangor who helped put together the list of ecological slogans and environmental phrases across languages; and of course to Anne Defreville, for her energy, talent and generosity.