by Kimberley Leathley, Outdoor Lead at Westminster Primary Academy
Here at Westminster Primary Academy in Blackpool, surrounded by concrete pavements and brick buildings, we were shocked by the lack of knowledge our pupils had about the natural world and their planet. We needed to take action!
We decided to take the environment back with the mission of bringing nature to the children. After extensive work to the school grounds through Nature Friendly Schools Project, children now have access to a pond, an outdoor classroom and a woodlands area.
The positive impact these changes have had on our pupils has been remarkable. Mental health has improved, children have become more resilient, academic performance has increased and lessons have become more creative. Like a captive bird, learning has been taken out of the constraints of the classroom and allowed to spread its wings out in the world with no limitations. Teachers now find themselves with a limitless amount of resources, which has nurtured their creativity. The children’s response to this has resulted in greater enthusiasm, engagement and a curiosity to question the world around in ways that they had never considered before.
One of the biggest benefits to children, has been their exposure to more wildlife. Once terrified of bugs, our pupils have become mini entomologists: intrigued by these little critters, excited about identifying them and careful to preserve their habitats. Our two resident squirrels, Chip and Dale, have become important features of everyday school life. When spotted, children’s eyes light up and giggles of excitement fill the air as they watch them scuttle across the trim trail.
The vision for the future is to continue to develop the area, so it becomes a hubbub of activity for diverse creatures, who will be able to live and share a safe and natural environment among humans, instead of segregated to small pockets within communities. We will continue to foster children’s passion and love for nature, through experience and the modelling and teaching of having a shared responsibility for caring for wildlife, their environment and the world around them. Our children will be adopting a world of uncertainty and it is our responsibility to first teach our pupils to love their planet if they are to save it.