Environmental Area Development Project

WHY HAVE THE ENVIRONMENTAL AREA DEVELOPMENT PROJECT?
  • To raise awareness about sustainability
  • To encourage all members of Meopham Community Academy to be respectful citizens by recycling, saving energy, conserving resources and caring for the environment.
  • To teach all members of Meopham Community Academy to have good habits for the future by valuing themselves and our environment.
  • To attend regular Eco meetings to discuss being an eco school.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS AREA?
  • Science Subject Leaders - Mrs Connor and Miss Searle
  • ALL at Meopham Community Academy

AIMS OF THE PROJECT

  • To increase the biodiversity within the school grounds so that we are better able to carry out the statutory and non-statutory parts of the science curriculum related to nature and the environment.

 

  • The statutory primary curriculum states that for KS1 “Most of the learning about science should be done through the use of first-hand practical experiences.”

 

  • Plants are an important part of many life cycles, they support insects, birds and mammals by providing food and habitats for nesting and shelter etc. by increasing the range of plants, we will also increase the range of habitats for an increasing range of living organisms.

 

IMG_20171023_105242
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  • To increase the amount of uses that we can make of our outside environment.

 

  • There are many reasons children should play and learn outside. Many recent studies have found that spending more time outside increases children’s physical and mental well-being.

 

  • To improve the appearance of our school grounds.

We envisage that this will be a long-term project and we will need your help and support with each step. 

 

We believe that if we can get the local community and our families involved as much as possible in helping to develop this area, the children will also learn about the importance of biodiversity, protecting and improving our local environments about team work and many of our focus values.

TASKS COMPLETED SO FAR

Winter 2018

  • Clear the nettles – these were kindly strimmed for us by the superstar grandparent of some of our children (thank you Richard) and the cuttings were piled to make a large compost heap. This has very quickly begun to rot down and is already providing a good habitat to support a larger range of organisms in our environmental area.
Before clearance
Before clearance
After clearance
After clearance
  • Coppice the willow arbour – this was carried out in January by Mrs Connor and her husband, so that new growth this spring can be woven and trained to make a more dense den for the children to use for imaginative play as well as to make habitats for a range of organisms. Willow is second only to oak as a native species that supports a large range of living organisms.
Before coppicing
Before coppicing
After coppicing
After coppicing

 

  • Plant a willow hedge – We have used some of the willow whips from the coppicing to plant a willow hedge along the school side of the environmental area. 

 

  • Cutting back the overhanging bushes and trees that shade the area - Our 'Superstar Grandpa' has been asked to come back in and cut back some of the scrubby, leaning and overhanging trees on the south side of the area creating more light and easier, safer access.

     

    This will hopefully happen in the next few weeks. Logs will be kept for habitat piles and for the children to use for camp building

Get involved with our Environmental Area Development Project

We are now asking for help with our next set of exciting plans for our new environmental area. 

  • Are you, or any of your family or friend, keen environmentalists, gardeners, garden designers, ornithologists, entomologists, fencers, scaffolders, carpet fitters, builders, farmers or in any way interest in helping us make our outside learning environment more interesting?
  • Are you employed by a company that has corporate social responsibility?
  • CAN YOU HELP WITH EQUIPMENT, RESOURCES OR LABOUR FOR ANY ASPECTS OF OUR PROJECT?

If yes to any of the above and you are interested in getting more involved with our development project, please use our contact form to message Mrs Connor /Ms Searle. 

Where we have suggested resources and ideas please feel free to offer alternatives, environmentally friendly or re-cycling ideas would be welcomed

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

FUTURE PLANS: Building a path

  1. We need a digger and driver for a few hours to dig a channel of about 15 cm deep and about 1 m wide, to form a path across the area (our eco-warriors have drawn a plan with where they would like the path to go).

(NOTE: The digger would need to come with boards so as to protect the turf on the school field)

  1. We need treated wooden boardsg. old scaffold boards or fencing gravel boards or similar (about 15 cm wide) to line the edges of the path. Roughly about 48 metres and wooden pegs to hold the boards in place.
  2. We need weed matting or hessian-backed old wool carpet to line the path which will be approximately 24 m long by 1 m wide.
  3. We have a contact for free chipped bark, but would need a team of volunteers with wheel barrows and shovels who could move the chipped bark and fill the path channel.

Resources needed:

  • mini-digger and driver
  • Treated wooden boards (or similar) and wooden pegs
  • Weed matting (or similar)
  • Volunteers with wheel barrows and shovels
Aiming for something like this...
Aiming for something like this...
...to achieve this
...to achieve this

FUTURE PLANS: Making a wild flower meadow

The soil we have is full of nettles, which indicates that it is too rich to successfully grow wild flowers. We therefore need to scrape off the soil surface, removing the majority of nettle roots and removing the soil surface.

  1. We need a digger and driver for a few hours to remove the soil and nettle roots from the surface of the proposed area, approximately 16 sq m.
  2. The digger would pile the soil and nettle roots to make a soil bank and landscape the area on the side of the site. Or ideally we’d like a skip and a team of people with wheel barrows who could take the soil and nettle roots away.
  3. We then need to pH test the soil, possibly make it more alkali with lime or chalk then plant yellow rattle which is a first native wild flower species to establish that will help to keep the most vigorous grasses from taking over and enable wild flowers to establish in future years.
  4. (This is an extremely beneficial annual for the wildflower meadow. It is semi-parasitic and takes its water and nutrients from neighbouring plants - particularly grasses. Therefore it is useful in maintaining just the right balance between wildflowers and overly vigorous grasses, which might otherwise take over completely. It is an attractive annual, with vibrant yellow flowers that provide summer colour and papery seedpods that rattle when the seed is ripe.)
  5. We will need to purchase yellow rattle seed and sow it between August and November.

A bale of hay left to rot provides wild flower seed and habitats so if you have a spare bale, that would be greatly appreciated. 

wildflower meadow

Resources needed:

  • mini-digger and driver
  • Skip
  • Bale of hay from an already established wild flower meadow
  • Volunteers with wheel barrows and shovels

FUTURE PLANS: Increasing native tree diversity across the school grounds

 

  1. We will need volunteers with spades to plant these specimens in suitable locations.

 

Resources needed:

  • potted or bare root, native species plants - buddleia, honeysuckle, hawthorn, yew, cobnut, horse chestnut and ivy.

FUTURE PLANS: Developing a pond or boggy area

  1. We will need a digger again, (see above) to dig out a suitable pond-sized area. It will need to be lined with a good quality pond liner.
  2. If being made into a boggy area, it will need to be filled carefully with old logs, rubble, pebbles and gritty soil, to allow pockets of water to remain.
  3. Then planted with native bog plants.
  4. If being made into a pond it will need to be edged with stones, filled with water and planted with suitable native pond and bog plants. It will also need to be covered with a padlockable/removable strong childproof grid screen.
  5. The cover needs to be removable for children to enjoy supervised pond dipping sessions.

Another option would be to bury some bowls or small troughs and fill them with pebbles and gritty soil to encourage water-loving plants and invertebrates, of course ensuring that they are safe for children.  This would not enable us to undertake pond dipping on site. We would need to continue to make off-site trips to venues such as Horton Kirby Field Study Centre to carry out pond dipping/wetland activities.

Resources needed:

  • mini-digger and driver
  • volunteers with wheel barrows
  • pnoid liner
  • pebbles and stones
  • strong lockable pond grid cover
  • bog and pond plants
bog 1

FUTURE PLANS: Build a habitat for Stag Beetles

Stag beetles are one of the most spectacular looking insects in Britain, named because the male’s large jaws look just like the antlers of a stag.  As well as being one of the largest, they are sadly one of our rarer beetles.  They spend most of their life underground as larvae, only emerging for a few weeks to find a mate and reproduce. Stag beetles and their larvae are quite harmless and a joy to watch.

We need to place some oak logs vertically under our oak tree, with some rotting oak leaves to attract Stag Beetles.

Resources needed:

  • Oak logs
  • Oak leaves

FUTURE PLANS: Story-telling and outside learning

With these, anywhere outside in the school grounds becomes a classroom!  Children could sit under the trees, in their own camps or anywhere in our school grounds for story-telling, drama and many other curriculum activities.

Resources needed:

  • 36 carpet tiles

FUTURE PLANS: Identify the trees and plants that we already have

We need to identify the trees and plants that we already have and plot them on a school map.

We can then make tailored, specific identification guides, keys and treasure hunts for the children to use.

Resources needed:

  • Anybody knowledgeable in plant identification

FUTURE PLANS: Install a composting area

We would use one compost bin as a leaf bin for fallen autumn leaves.

The other would be a compost bin for fruit and vegetable waste from our fruit snacks and the school kitchen’s salad bar.

These would provide the children the opportunity to learn how compost and humus is made. They would put temperature probes in to see how the composting process produces heat. they would learn about the importance of micro-organisms and fungi and would discover how compost makes excellent habitats for a diverse range of organisms.

They would also provide compost for any school gardening projects such as gardening club.

Resources needed:

  • A couple of compost bins either plastic or wooden (perhaps constructed from pallets/wooden boards).
compolst 2

FUTURE PLANS: Install bird-feeding stations

We have previously had a very successful bird feeding station at the front of the school. Unfortunately, the pole that we hung the feeders on broke at the end of last year in high winds, so we currently hang the feeders from the bushes. This does make viewing from the walkway a little trickier. 

We have an internet-enabled web cam and bird box set up in this part of the school too and we hope to have a live stream from our web site again this Spring (keep up to date via the 'Science Area').

We would like to have more feeding stations around the school so that they can be viewed from the classrooms too. A shed, converted into a hide in the environmental area would also be a great opportunity and resource for budding ornithologists. 

Resources needed:

  • A new pole to hang bird feeders from
  • Bird food (not peanuts)
  • Bird bath

FUTURE PLANS: Install bird-feeding stations

Check out our summary presentation - share all of our exciting ideas with your children!