Darley Dale Primary School are committed to being sustainable and are always looking for new ways to make their school greener. After noticing that lots of apples from the school’s apple trees were going to waste, they applied for an OVO Foundation Nature Prize to buy an apple press to combat this waste.
A few years ago, students had the chance to use an apple press brought in by a local community member where they learnt how to press the apples and bottle the juice. Students loved the experience, and, after thinking of ways this year’s apples could be used, suggested the school bought their own.
Students from every year group will have a chance to use the press and produce bottles of apple juice. This will then be sold to community members in recycled and reused bottles to raise money for the school garden and food growing. The school also hopes parents, families and other members of the community will come and use the apple press with fruit from their own gardens, helping to cut down waste at home.
The project has involved a wide range of people, from the PTA who first found out about the Nature Prize, to the school caretaker who is building a specialist plinth for the press. Students who struggle with behaviour in the classroom have also really benefitted from the project as it creates opportunities for outside learning and gives them something practical to channel their energy into.
Whilst the press gets set up on its plinth, students have been busy collecting apples from around the site, alongside other forest school activities that also form part of the curriculum. The school also has a unique set up in which students in year 3 spend their whole year learning gardening skills in place of forest school, meaning every child during their school career has the chance to learn gardening and food growing skills.
The next stage of the school’s sustainability journey is to grow all their own fruit and veg. Now, they have three raised beds and a polytunnel, but hope to expand this space with money brought in from the apple press as well as their annual plant sale, eventually creating veg boxes for parents and families with the produce grown on site.
Looking at their own site and taking inspiration from what they already had was key to Darley Dale’s success. The school pursues a zero-waste approach, and buying an apple press has allowed them to make use of what is naturally produced on the school site in a way that involves the students and community.
Staff at the school recommend for other schools to look at what their own sites offer, as well as the skills and passions of teachers, parents and community members. Getting people involved in sustainability projects from across the school spectrum, from the PTA to the caretaker, uncovers people’s different skills and fosters wide scale support.
Schools can win the cash to implement a community nature project. Schools from disadvantaged areas with high pupil premium are particularly encouraged to apply.