Catrin Szewczyk of Stebon Primary School writes:
Stebon Primary school received a Tower Habitats biodiversity grant for £2000 from the Tower Hill Trust in 2017. We have used it in two areas of the school grounds, to create an allotment and a woodland area.
The Allotment was a mad patch of bare ground where a shed had once stood. Over the course of a year we transformed it into an allotment-type space, with six planters, one for each year group. Each one links to the curriculum in a different way and also offers a different purpose, and all of them provide lots of nectar for bees and other pollinators.
The allotment garden is now well established and looks like it has been at Stebon for years. This part of the project started in February 2018 and was largely completed in July 2018. It has already undergone some changes this academic year as the new cohorts each took over their year group planter and took ownership over what they are growing and how to maintain their plants. Our job now is to make sure it continues to be maintained and to make sure in September each year group becomes responsible for their new planter. Through the course of a child’s time at Stebon they will have a wide experience of caring for a huge range of plants and will develop a good understanding for the creatures (good and bad) that are attracted to the different plants.
The Woodland Area
The project around this area was more complicated. Stebon had an area called the Peace Garden, which had a pond in it, some raised planters and an AstroTurf hill, all under the dense shade of several large trees. None of it really worked. The pond would fill up with plastic toys and rubbish stopping it from attracting any wildlife. We were very limited by what we could grow in the planters, and the allotment area meant we no longer needed them in this space.
The initial plan was to re-establish the pond area, to make it safe at all times, but accessible for science learning around pondlife. We had a pond expert have a look, after much discussion it was decided that the most sensible idea was to remove the pond, as it really wasn’t working for education or wildlife,for a number of reasons.
We made the decision to re-think the project and to create a woodland area where Forest School could take place. Our Science Club and Year 1 Forest School groups pulled up the weed blanket from the ground, re arranged rocks, moved around earth, layered top soil and prepared the space. Our premises team cleaned the stone statue, making the space more appealing and Science club then planted a range of plants.
Currently the space is being used by all children at play and lunch time. Forest School takes place every Friday and the space is used to complete many outdoor activities, including creating bird feeders and making mud pies. We have bought ladybird houses, bat boxes and a bird box with a camera.
We have spent all of the money from our budget, but not finished installing everything. We would also like to add in more plants. The playground has very little natural ground or bushes for the children to run through, over time the hope is this woodland area will become somewhere very natural feeling where they can explore nature. We still have Astro Turf hill, but we are in talks to change it, potentially knocking the top off and turning it into a growing space. Officially this part of the project was completed in March, but it is still ongoing and will continue to develop.
You can read much more about the project, with lots more photos, in the full report.