Old Park Primary and Nursery School was the first in Shropshire to sign up to year one of Nature Friendly Schools, joining 99 other schools across the country, but it is already reaping the benefits.
Pupils will get the chance to experience nature right on their doorstep after Telford & Wrekin Council agreed to allow the school to use an area of land bordering it to create a nature-friendly outdoor classroom area to bring the curriculum to life outdoors.
The 1.6 acre site had been left untouched since the former St Leonard’s County Infant School was demolished in 2007 and as such has become a hive of biodiversity. It offers an exciting resource for the school to enrich pupils' learning while helping to build educational resilience, support heath and wellbeing, and provide a place for children to build social skills as part of their Covid19 education and social catch-up.
The fact that the meadow is on the school’s doorstep will open up opportunities for natural leaning as part of its curriculum as well as helping pupils to develop a sense of care and concern for the environment.
Headteacher Mandie Haywood, explains: “The meadow is completely natural and we want to leave it that way. How often do children get to run through a field of long grass? They will be able explore, go on bug hunts, examine the plant life, build dens and generally let their imaginations go wild. We don’t have to organise a visit somewhere, we can just go out the door into our own wild and wonderful outdoor learning space. I am so grateful to Ellie and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust for all their support and to Telford & Wrekin Council for granting us a licence to use the meadow. It will transform our opportunities for learning and play.”
Ellie Leach, Nature Friendly Schools Education Officer at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, added: "The Nature Friendly Schools programme is about increasing academic resilience and mental health and wellbeing in schools through sustained outdoor learning. This is about tiny little bits of outdoor learning every single day meaning that pupils are able to explore the natural world and gain a real passion for what's around them."
Cllr Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Nature Friendly Schools is a brilliant scheme that our schools in Telford and Wrekin have been quick to embrace. The pandemic has disrupted education and been a challenge for us all, but being able to get outside and be closer to nature makes all the difference to our health and wellbeing.”
Cllr Kuldip Sahota, Malinslee and Dawley Bank Ward, added: “Children everywhere have struggled with their mental wellbeing because of the pandemic and the meadow will provide the children at Old Park Primary with the space they need to help them recover through learning and playing together.”