Millfield Primary School's 'Going Wild in Brownhills' project
27 August 2012
Download the Case Study
After developing a wild area with butterfly garden, pond, animal homes and log and wood piles we decided as a school that we wanted to develop a larger, more cohesive area. This area would include the habitats and features we had already developed but also enable us to provide a different variety of habitats and an outdoor learning environment both for the children and adults associated with Millfield and those from the surrounding community.
It soon became apparent that there was an ‘L’ shaped area of land available to develop for our project. The area stretched along the boundary of the school so as to include the canal (an invaluable resource we were determined to include) and then ran up the side of the playing fields to include the allotments and other original habitats and features. Due to the shape of the area lending itself to a winding path and our wish to include sensory activities and experiences along its way, we decided to launch “Going Wild in Brownhills!” a sensory nature trail that would be used by many.
Delivering the project and linking it to the curriculum
The project was first introduced to the children through a whole school enrichment assembly. The children were asked to work in groups of mixed age children and were invited to put forward their ideas and plans of how they thought the school environment should look. They loved the idea of having a barge as an outdoor classroom and they also decided to have a bird hide as part of the nature trail.
They were all given the opportunity to work alongside a designer to design the bird hide and research which environmentally sustainable materials to use in its construction. As part of lessons children found out about the different activities they could introduce to the school, such as fishing, canal dipping, canoeing and bird spotting. They also identified ways of sharing the developed nature trail with community groups from the neighbourhood.
The project was then delivered to the local community at the Brownhills Canal Festival in July 2010. On display boards we outlined our ideas and hopes for the canal and surrounding land and we raised a lot of interest and support especially from the local members of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust.
We then launched “Going Wild in Brownhills!” to local councillors, business people and members of environmental based agencies that had expressed an interest in becoming involved in our project. The children invited people in to come and look around the school grounds and see for themselves what the project involved.
We shared our ideas with local schools by taking part in a science showcase.
Getting the pupils involved
All of the children were involved at every level and with lots of the decisions. Whenever possible the children have spoken to and worked alongside the visitors that have come into school and we have tried to celebrate all of the small successes along the way.
We have an Eco-Team at Millfield who meet regularly to help maintain the school grounds and the Action Team addresses the environmental issues that arise within school. However, all of the children have been involved with this project, not just Eco-Team members.
The children helped to design the structures that were to be part of the nature trail, they worked in small groups with designers, and this helped them to feel that their ideas were taken in to consideration and acted upon.
During the “Going Wild in Brownhills!” launch the children put on environmental based workshops in each classroom that the visitors could take part in.
Members of the Eco-Team with Year 5 and 6 pupils attended the Science Showcase, talking to parents, pupils and teachers of the surrounding schools. This helped them to feel very proud of their school and the project.
Yes, however, the agencies that have helped to fund our projects were not the original groups we approached. The school has also funded a large part of the project.
Support from parents, staff and outside agencies has been amazing. To start the project we held two “ground-force” days where parents, staff, members of the community and outside agencies were invited to kick start our project. Heads of educational departments, directors of agencies, grandparents, teaching staff and friends all helped to clear the area some laying turf, others building ponds and lots of people digging and planting.
In a project as ambitious as this there were always going to be challenges to overcome. Companies that we approached initially couldn’t help us, but then as we shared our project with the community it was great to find other societies that were prepared to help us and offer guidance and advice.
There are parts of the project that have taken longer than we anticipated. We sourced a barge to moor at Millfiled to use as an additional educational resource. However, this happened as budgets were being cut so refurbishing the barge has become a future project.
Benefits of being an Eco-School
Talking to visitors, taking part in workshops with other children of different ages and presenting our ideas to other people are all projects that have helped to improve the children’s personal and social skills. Taking part in the workshops meant that the children have learnt about environmental issues such as sustainable building materials, environmentally friendly cleaning products and the importance of sourcing products and materials locally. Other workshops saw the children designing and making sculptures and mosaics for the outdoor environment, learning about famous artists and adapting their style. Designing and drawing the school grounds have meant the children have improved their geographical and mathematical skills.
As more of the children at Millfield have become familiar with the project they have become prouder of their school and so they have stopped dropping litter and turn lights off in empty classrooms. Having a cleaner school means we can be confident entrants of Brownhills in Bloom.
The children now have a fabulous outdoor educational resource. They can bird watch in the bird hide, identify wild flowers in the meadow, play musical instruments outdoors, pond dip, canal dip, climb trees, dig and plant and go canoeing. We also share our new environment with local community groups.
The environment has also enabled the staff to undertake Forest School’s training.
Measuring the impact
The project has all been about setting small goals that once accomplished have meant that the larger project has taken shape. A diary has been kept of the journey with lots of photographs showing the achievements along the way
Educational resources used
Brownhills in Bloom 2011 and 2012
RSPB The school’s big bird watch
Potato Council’s Grow your own campaign
Forest Schools training
To have ambitious plans made up of lots of smaller goals. To know exactly what you are aiming for 5 or even 10 years down the line means you can plan the smaller goals more efficiently and accurately. If you rush out, start and finish a project quickly, it may not be long before you realise it was the wrong thing to do and it doesn’t actually fit into the bigger project and then you want to change it.
We would love to aim for our Ambassador Award.
Local Authority support
We have been visited by the Recycling Robot.