In 2015, Ingleby Mill Primary made us all want to go back to school. The school boasted an amazing outdoor learning environment, however, it wasn’t being utilised to its full potential, so staff decided to look to the NEPIC awards to help fund some much needed changes. The children set to task developing plans for an exciting outside learning environment project.
Together they decided that they would really like (take a deep breath) an outside reading area, mini beach, tyre fun area, mud kitchen, music area, dinosaur land, water wall, weaving area, forest activities, bird hide and ……. last but not least …… a growing wall and developed mood boards for each area.
The materials and equipment – both new and up-cycled – required to take the children’s ideas and designs from concept to reality were identified. Following their award wine in January 2015, Ingleby Mill have created each and every innovative area suggested, providing curriculum enrichment for all of the school’s pupils for many years to come.
Lingey House is one of three primary schools situated on a very large council estate in east Gateshead. The housing estate is classed as an area of deprivation, however, the school is fortunate to be sited on the periphery of a large park and within 20 meters of a pond. The pond is a valuable teaching resource and the school frequently visit to observe and learn about the wildlife that has made it its home. It was recently discovered that water voles – a protected species – are living there, however, so do many rats attracted by the bread which the public are feeding the waterfowl in the pond.
As rats pose a danger to the protected water voles, the school’s ‘Green Team’ set to task to determine how they could stop the public from feeding bread to the waterfowl and in turn protect the water voles. The ‘Green Team’ – a nurture group of fifteen children aged eight to eleven – decided that they needed to inform and educate the public. The team split into groups for secretaries, accountants and researchers and upon deciding that signage was the right approach, obtained quotes, worked out costings and researched and identified different waterfowl diets and carried out surveys.
Using the prize fund to purchase resources and signage, Lingey House School and the Green Team are educating not only the children but parents, residents and visitors to Oliver Henderson Park about the wildlife and their diets and hopefully save the lives of the water voles.
St. Oswald’s Primary School in Durham boosts a fantastic nature garden area with great potential but unfortunately, without dedicated funding, this resource fell into disrepair. To address the situation, the entire school came off timetable and got their heads together to devise a plan to transform this unused, now unloved area into the new ‘St. Oswald’s Wildlife Garden’.
Initial thoughts were shared during an assembly and the disused nature garden opened to all, before the children started planning within their year groups. Together, they created videos about the things they’d like in their new garden; designed campaign posters; discussed the garden’s impact on the environment; created aerial view drawings; 3D models and drafted lobbying letters and project plans. The atmosphere in school that day was described as ‘electric’.
For the children, their focus is to encourage as much wildlife as possible using bird boxes, feeding tables and baths. Habitats will also be created to encourage other wildlife such as squirrels, hedgehogs and bats – and for the mini-beasts, a bug hotel of course! A viewing lookout will also be created so that the children can watch without disturbing their new residents. Each year group will take it in turn to keep the area in tip top condition and parents and locals with an interest in all things wildlife will be invited onto site, during school holidays, to support larger maintenance work.
An environmentally friendly, outdoor learning resource project developed, managed and ultimately enjoyed by the children; is a project very much worthy of the 2017 BOC North East Primary School Environmental Award.
Eco-school Village Primary, based in Thornaby, approached the BOC Environmental Award for North East Primary Schools for help in developing an area of the existing playground – currently littered with underused, rotting picnic benches – to transform it into an outdoor classroom area for the entire school to enjoy.
For use during lesson time, breaks and afterschool club provision, the children designed an all-weather, covered area that will enhance learning in all aspects of the curriculum including science, drama, reading and writing.
Keen to get their hands dirty and help further the school’s eco-status from bronze to silver, pupils are also looking to develop current planting projects that includes growing vegetables for use in the school canteen and support the school’s ‘growing’ gardening club.
New, outdoor beanbags will be purchased to create areas of sanctuary for the children to dive into the latest books and further their literacy skills; and sustainable benches, made from composite materials, bought to provide long-lasting places to tackle projects and practical activities.
A worthy winner, we wish the school community every success over the coming year as they see their plans become a reality. We look forward to seeing the results and helping in the vegetable garden!
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