This is a transition project, undertaken by students in the Prep (Year 6) and MYP1 (Year 7).
This year we have worked using the John Muir Award as a framework to guide our planning. In this project we have worked for half a day each week during face-to-face teaching weeks at our sister site, a stunning 30-acre outdoor education centre in the Forest of Dean. We bring some of the concepts back into the classroom and over the lock down tried to encourage students to apply these to their own outdoor spaces. Our focus has been to begin the process of rewilding the site and we have made links with the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and sought professional advice to improve soil quality and ensure the ancient woodland is well managed and safe.
Students spent several weeks surveying and observing the various habitats at the centre; meadow, hedgerow, ancient woodland and wildlife pond. Students worked in groups to complete wildlife / nature surveys. They also participated in a mirror walk through the site, looking up towards the canopy of the ancient woodland. The following week they had a residential stay in the bell tents on site, where students discovered how the site changes at night. Students also began to think about survival skills and made links to the class text ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kippling – discovering the uses of ‘the red flower’ and making their own fires and even having a go at some campfire cooking.
Students applied mathematical measuring skills to work out the approximate ages of a sample of the trees under the guidance of our Principal, Dr. Daniel Sturdy. Students foraged for wild garlic and created some delicious pesto back in school, which was then added as a topping to the pizzas made and cooked the following week (as well as enjoyed by the whole school in school dinners!) Students created their own maps of the site, including 3D enhancement using clay. They also used the ancient woodland as a backdrop for their own clay nature art, creating woodland creatures and enhancing the natural beauty of the trees.
Students created bird feeders for the wild birds, which linked into our classroom-based science work. Students continued with this theme through the lock down in their own gardens, ensuring they were ‘bird friendly’ and participating in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We visited other wild sites in the area, in particular two owned by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust which sit either side of our own site, which we hope to add to, forming a rich corridor for wildlife. We started by making comparisons between the wild sites and our own. The students loved getting glimpses of the wild ponies there. This led to us introducing two young Dartmoor ponies, and there are plans to introduce two more later in the year. These ponies are wild and were born on Dartmoor; the students take the lead in managing their space, ensuring they are safely contained and have access to clean water etc.
Students are creating their own acrostic poetry which is being illustrated with art inspired by nature, including frames they have woven. These pieces of work will be used to create a hard-back book that students can purchase inspired by ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. There will be a poetry reading event towards the end of the summer term, lockdown permitting where we can share our passion for rewilding our own Wilderness.
This project has given a huge sense of purpose to students’ time outside the classroom. It has enabled focus and the negotiation of a shared goal, to make a positive impact on the natural environment at our sister site: and the book – currently still under construction! It has also helped pupils to feel connected in a very challenging year, with the Covid pandemic. It has motivated all of the students through their engagement in the different phases and short-term outcomes and achievements built in each week. They have also been encouraged to think and apply these principles to their own outside spaces, to improve the biodiversity and conserve birds, hedgehogs etc. The school has a display board in the main entrance which is dedicated to the project and updated on a weekly or fortnightly basis. The students talk about the rewilding project with passion and a sense that they make a positive difference.
This is an ongoing project that we will add to over time, the new intake will be able to join in September and be part of something that is evolving, part of the fabric of the school.