Staff and students at Norton Free C of E Primary School won a £1,000 OVO Foundation Nature Prize with their plans to revamp the school pond and create an outdoor learning area to be used across different subjects.
Plans to update the pond area and replace the fence were formed in September, as part of the school’s first Eco-School’s Green Flag application. Whilst they lacked the budget to buy new materials for the fence, students formed a Pond Cleaning Club that worked to clear the pond and surrounding area and encourage wildlife back to the water.
The OVO Foundation Nature Prize was the perfect opportunity to get funding to kick start the project and teachers and staff were absolutely thrilled to win. The new fence they were able to purchase with the prize money has allowed them to create a much bigger and more secure space around the pond, which they can use for outdoor learning and opportunities for nature connection.
Instead of growing sunflowers inside the classrooms as part of the science curriculum, students will now be able to sow wildflower seeds and monitor their progress outdoors. There are also plans to use the area for ‘Philosophy for Children’ sessions, as well as for story time.
Money from the prize has gone even further after the school received a huge discount on the fence materials from Wickes. Mr French, Eco-coordinator and year 3 teacher, who is leading the project, applied for Wickes’s community programme, which resulted in getting £430 knocked off the £700 bill, demonstrating the impact of combining different pots of money for the same project.
Staff and students at the school have also been collaborating with a neighbouring primary school, and other Nature Prize winner, Arbourthorne Community Primary School. The school exchanged a home-made bird box for a home-growing kit, as well as tips and ideas for other sustainability projects.
The school has big plans to continue its sustainability journey this year, focusing predominantly on food and energy. Staff are planning to install raised beds so students can grow their own produce, and are already making enquiries about second hand polytunnels, to save money. They will continue to petition the local council for solar panels and are also planning to create a sensory garden for SEND students.
Winning the Nature Prize has been a real game changer, says Mr French, who encourages other schools to apply to the competition to build up their sustainability efforts. The project was submitted as evidence in the school’s Eco-Schools Green Flag application, for which they have just been awarded a green flag with distinction, showing how the competition can help to support other climate and sustainability programmes.