The OVO Foundation Nature Prize


Ysgol Tycroes, Ammanford, Wales

Increase opportunities for student nature connection, particularly for those with trauma and SEND.

This Welsh primary school won a £1,000 OVO Foundation Nature Prize with their idea to create a working vegetable garden and outdoor learning area. Wanting to increase opportunities for student nature connection, particularly for those with trauma and SEND, they have created a thriving outdoor classroom and growing area. 

After attending a pilot scheme for local schools which focused on health, well-being and nature, Teacher and Trauma Informed Schools Practitioner, Mrs Dawn Carby, was inspired to improve access to outdoor learning at the school, not only to encourage sustainability but also to bring communities back together post-COVID.  

Working with a Year 5 and 6 focus group, a five-step plan was established of what they wanted the school garden to look like. Initially, with a small pot of money from elsewhere, they started by installing raised beds. With the Nature Prize money, they have now been able to buy a 10 x 15-foot polytunnel, where the seedlings grown in classrooms can be taken to mature. 

As well as a space for plants, the polytunnel will also double as an outdoor classroom, where students can learn no matter what the weather. All classes now have a timetabled slot every week to go out to the garden area, working together to produce food that will go out to community members.  

Starting to grow their own fruit and veg has not been without challenges, but learning through doing has proved to be an effective method. All classes took part in a competition to grow the biggest potato, and the trial and error involved in the process helped them to understand the ideal conditions for growing them.  

With the installation of the polytunnel, students will be able to fully utilise the garden area, taking what they learn back to their homes and communities. Already, more families have started to compost their food waste after students learnt about its importance at school.  

Next steps for the garden include opening it up to local community members, including the residents of a local care-home who will be able to come in and work alongside the students, sharing their own knowledge and skills. Students from the garden focus group also aspire to getting a bee colony, and staff are encouraging them to look for funding opportunities to do so. 

“Students are learning what plants we can grow and how they help each other, and which different flowers compliment certain vegetables, and how we can integrate them. Then we aim to make the project cross-generational by inviting people of all ages to come and work with the children to build a real sense of community.”  

Dawn Carby, Teacher 

The school has been on its sustainability journey for a while; they started by focusing on active travel, and have now turned their attention to food, compost and growing their own. Getting staff enthused about outdoor learning was initially quite difficult, but seeing how much the students love being outdoors and how much they’re learning has inspired them to get involved. 

Mrs Carby said, “When we run the gardening club, some of the Teaching Assistants have commented on how much the children enjoy their time outdoors.  They literally love it! They look at a worm and are so curious about what the worm does – they’re just so enthusiastic about it.”  

The advice offered to other schools looking to start on their own sustainability journeys is to start small and break the project into small chunks. Trying to tackle everything at once can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start, and so it is best to see it as a long-term project. Sustainability initiatives should have a progression; learning how to successfully sow seeds in the classroom will help to build up students’ and staff’s knowledge and confidence to move onto growing outdoors.  

Lets Go Zero logo for schools working to become zero carbon by 2030.

Contact us

Email: letsgozero@ashden.org
Twitter: @LetsGo_Zero

Join the Campaign

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

Apply now


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