The OVO Foundation Nature Prize


Lockerbie Learning Centre, Lockerbie , Scotland

Inclusive nature area boosts learning and wellbeing 

Lockerbie Learning Centre, a centre for students with severe and complex needs, won a £200 OVO Foundation Nature Prize with their plans to create a wheelchair-accessible planting area for students to learn about food production and grow their own produce.  

Lockerbie has been working on raising equity for all pupils, particularly wheelchair users, to make sure each and every student can enjoy outdoor opportunities. The centre had access to an empty plot of land which they have slowly been turning into a flourishing nature and growing area. Students have been involved from the get-go, helping to select what they wanted and where it would be planted.  

As well as the money received from the OVO Foundation Nature Prize, the centre has also raised funds from its local community, showing how different pots of money can be used to scale up an idea. A local building company, building houses on the site next to the school, contributed funding to put up a fence around the nature area, ensuring all children can access the site safely.  

The centre’s nature area has features including vegetable planters, a herb plot, and a wild area to encourage biodiversity, all of which have been hugely beneficial to the students. Teachers have noticed that students with communication difficulties are more communicative when outside, and that being out in nature has brought emotional and social benefits to students, particularly to those whose needs may restrict their outdoor access.  

“Because of the different environment, they’re thinking about something else and talking in a much freer way. So the project, which your money is helping, it really is making such a big impact on the lives of these children.”  

-Michelle Kane, Additional Support Needs Teacher 

With the winning funds, the centre has bought materials to create wheelchair accessible paths around the vegetable garden, as well as wheelchair height planters, which have allowed students to join in with their peers and get involved in growing their own produce.  

So far, students have grown strawberry plants, peas, sunflowers, courgettes, and spinach. Now accessible to all students, the nature area has been incorporated into lessons. Early years use it to explore sensory experiences, using herbs for basic cooking and flowers to make perfume, whilst older students explore the biodiversity the area brings with it, going on bug hunts.  

Staff say having access to an area where students can grow food and learn gardening skills is particularly important for students who can be reluctant to engage in typical classroom activities and offers them a chance to engage in meaningful, real-life skills. 

The success of the project, and the clear benefits it has had for students, mean staff at the centre encourage other schools to make a start with outdoor learning. Even schools with no current access to green space can start small – such as by planting seeds in pots in the classroom – and expand out when possible. In the future, the centre hopes to develop a full market garden in order to share produce with students and their families.  

“All the pupils were working together to make sure that all the little fruit trees were watered. And I think that’s when learning becomes really relevant, because you can see the direct impact of what you are doing and the importance of why it is that you are doing something.”  

-Michelle Kane, Additional Support Needs Teacher 

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OVO Foundation Nature Prize

Schools can win the cash to implement a community nature project. Schools from disadvantaged areas with high pupil premium are particularly encouraged to apply.

Applications open.

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