By Nicky Willner, Senior Education Officer The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country
Here at the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, our Nature Friendly Schools team is really excited to be working on a project that supports mental health and brings outdoor learning to some of the most disadvantaged pupils in the country.
So far, we have worked with 11 local primary schools, spending time getting to know staff, pupils and their local areas. We have found that there is a real desire to embrace outdoor learning, but uncertainty about how to do this. Co-designing schools' development plans for outdoor learning has given staff and pupils a real say in what they need to make outdoor learning happen in their own setting.
Key pupils have loved designing improvements to their school grounds. They have learned what would make their site a better place for nature and considered how they would like to use the space for learning and relaxing. Knowing that elements of their design are going to be implemented has really engaged their interest.
In February 2020, work began on greening the grounds’ of one of our Walsall schools. Jake, a member of our Nature Friendly Schools team with landscaping skills, and Daryl, a trainee, worked with key pupils to begin implementing their designs. Wild flower areas were prepared, spring bulbs and a range of native trees were planted. A lot of fun was had by all.
Covid-19 did put a stop to our plans to finish the design – but not for long. In September we added a seating circle and fire pit. Habitat piles, bug hotels and feeders will also be going into the grounds. I am really looking forward to helping staff plan and deliver outdoor learning on the finished site and seeing teachers and pupils connect with nature on their doorstep.