The Eco Schools Green Flag Award scheme is a pupil led environmental project involving hands-on, real world learning involving the whole school and the wider community. At St Stephen's we have been successful in our bid for the Green Flag Award three times and have been working hard to achieve a fourth Award. This has been a difficult task during COVID-19 times when children have been at home but we have worked extra hard in all areas of the programme since returning to school in September 2020.
News update........... we have just been informed we have been successful in our bid and achieved Green Flag status for the FOURTH time!!!!
Since September, our Eco Team have been involved in lots of different projects relating to the programme. These include...........
We have been working very hard improving our surroundings and increasing the children's knowledge and understanding of the importance of protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
We have asked our parents for donations of bulbs and seeds which have been planted around school and the Eco Garden. These plants, along with the free trees donated by The Woodland Trust, will support life on Earth by releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, absorbing carbon dioxide and providing habitats and food for wildlife and humans. They will also help to regulate the water cycle.
Our children have made bird boxes and released butterflies into the Eco Garden after watching them grow from caterpillars into a chrysalis before emerging into a butterfly. They have also released frog spawn into our Eco pond and replenished it with fish donated by our local PCSO.
Our Reception Class and Year 1 Class currently take part in a Forest Schools programme. This programme offers the children the opportunity to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on learning experiences in a natural environment with trees. We developed a piece of land in the school playing field and cleared the area to make an environment for our children to achieve a positive outdoor experience.
In addition, we purchased a new Bug Hotel for our Eco Garden. The company helped to build the hotel during workshops held across Key Stage 1 with our children sourcing the bugs. The children learnt that insects are an integral part of a successful garden and can actually help control and reduce the populations of detrimental insects. They understood that by providing these insects with a home, they will be promoting wellbeing and the population numbers of beneficial insects. During lockdown, the Insect Hotel became neglected and overgrown. Our Eco Team identified this and, helped by Keyworker children, rebuilt it to its former glory. It now holds pride of place in the Eco Garden and is teeming with insects.
The Team has been looking at the ways in which we can save energy - both at home and in school. Members of our Eco Team take weekly meter readings with the Site Manager and plot the results onto graphs so we can easily make comparisons and check what activities have had an impact.
We have previously taken part in 'Switch Off Fortnight' where we spend two weeks helping to cut our carbon emissions in school. However, with the impact of COVID-19 affecting our school routines, we are looking to take part in a 'Switch Off' day instead. We will spend the whole day without electricity - lights will be turned off, along with computers and interactive whiteboards. When taking part in 'Switch Off' events, electricity usage, naturally, takes a dip. This has led our Eco Team to investigate the feasibility in switching our lighting throughout school to LED. We were successful in negotiating with an outside company ESL (Energy Savings Lighting) who guaranteed savings in electricity charges and who have since fitted the whole school with LED lighting.
We are also looking to take part in 'Empty Classroom Day.' This is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. This not only improves children's health but also engages them with learning, leading to a greater connection with nature. As an added bonus we will be able to save energy in school while the children are learning outdoors.
This area is one of the simplest ways to show children the impact our behaviour has on the environment.
We are going to take part in Eco Schools and Keep Britain Tidy's 'The Great Big School Clean' from 28th May until 13th June 2021. We will need to pledge how many children will take part and how many minutes they will litter pick for. Using a walking pace of three miles per hour, Eco Schools will calculate how many miles of litter picking we have completed. They are hoping together we can collectively complete a million miles of litter picking - enough to get to the moon and back twice!! Looking after our environment and being outdoors will also help to contribute to improved mental and physical well-being.
Although unable to get out into the community to litter pick as previously, Years 5 and 6 have regularly conducted a litter pick around our school field. In addition, our Reception Class has taken part in litter picks in our Forest School area.
Global Citizenship educates and prepares young people for their role in a modern world, beginning with an exploration of different cultures, languages and economies. To help the children be aware of the wider world and have a sense of their own role as a world citizen we have previously invited Fairtrade into school to deliver an assembly. However, with the restrictions COVID-19 brings we have been unable to accept any visitors in school. Year 6 have spent a Half Term learning about Global Trade and understanding that Fairtrade works at changing the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fair deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. They will celebrate the end of the module with a Fairtrade Tea Party and enjoy some Fairtrade snacks.
Our School Council choose to support a different charity each year. Previously they had chosen a charity which helps children in rural India to go to school instead of having to work. We are looking at supporting a different world charity this year, but again, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have been unable to host any School Council meetings because we cannot mix bubbles. However, as a school, we have supported local charities including Kearsley and Farnworth Food Bank, Dancing with Dementia, NSPCC and Children in Need.
This topic is one which the children have been very busy working on. They understand there is link between a healthy environment and a healthy life and realise that what is good for us is also good for the environment and a environmentally sustainable diet is often also a healthy diet. During the work on our Eco Garden, we built a polytunnel and raised beds in which to grow fruit and vegetables. This has been very successful and we provided our school kitchen with some of our produce to use for our school dinners. The excess produce was sold to parents after school and during our Sports Day. In addition, our School Kitchen has decided to offer salad boxes to Key Stage 2 for their school lunches and these have proved extremely popular, particularly in the warmer weather.
Mental health is, however, just as important as physical health. Our Year 5 and Year 6 children take part in a mindfulness session each Friday which helps the children focus on what they are sensing and feeling at that moment without being judged. This involves breathing methods and other practices to relax the body and mind to reduce stress levels. These sessions often take place in the Reflection Area in the Eco Garden. These sessions have been introduced since our children returned back to school after lockdown and have been very successful in helping the children adjust to the 'new normal'.
We have been working EXTREMELY hard on this topic area. We have developed an overgrown piece of land in the school grounds and created a fabulous Eco Garden. Take a look at the photos to illustrate the transformation..........
We have created a pond which houses frogspawn, tadpoles, newts, snails, ramshorn snails, great pond snails and fully grown frogs and toads. In addition, we have received a donation of two shubunkins from our local PCSO. The fish are now thriving in our pond adding colour and liveliness. We have also been fortunate to receive donations of bird boxes, bat boxes and plants from our local neighbours who are extremely happy to see the improvements made to their environment.
Not only have we been working on the Garden, we have also improved our school playground............
......and created different areas around school including a Reflection Area.
As part of their outdoor learning, Reception Class enjoy taking part in a Forest School session each Friday morning. Forest School is an inspirational process which offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a natural environment with trees. Look at the change our children have made to a corner of our school field. And take a look at the bird boxes in situ which our Eco Team has made...............
We are justifiably proud of our outdoor learning environment and we feel it makes a visible statement about our school and what we stand for.
Due to the location of our school, traffic and parking is a huge problem for St Stephen's. We have looked at different ways in which we could alleviate some of the problems to benefit both our children and the local neighbours and community. We have introduced a Walking Bus scheme which not only tackles lateness and absenteeism, but also promotes road safety, Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this activity has been suspended. However, we still actively encourage our children to walk to school and monitor the class statistics.
We have also invested in cycle racks to encourage our children to cycle to school. Hand in hand with this initiative we take part in Bikeability each year. This is a two day course in cycle training from the first basic steps of cycling taught in a traffic-free environment, to teaching the skills and knowledge required to keep children safe on today's roads. In addition, this year, we are also taking part in the Right Route Cycling project. This project incorporates routine maintenance work on bikes, studying local maps to work out the best and safest route to cycle and also practical cycling on the road.
We have purchased a 'Safe Parking' sign which is outside our school gates each morning and afternoon. One of our School Governors monitors the driving and parking each afternoon when parents are collecting their child from school and advises about safe parking. In addition, as part of our ongoing work with road safety, we are working hard with the local authority and have appointed two Road Safety Ambassadors. The ambassadors have received packs detailing lots of information about road safety which they will feed on to the whole school in the form of an assembly when allowed. Within the pack were details about a Road Safety competition and we are currently waiting to see if we have been successful in receiving funding to improve our playground markings.
At St Stephen's we embrace the 5Rs.
- Refuse - we don't buy products we don't need
- Reduce - we don't buy products we will not use
- Reuse - we upcycle lots of products
- Repair - we repair as many items as we can
- Recycle - we recycle lots of products eg: batteries, ink cartridges etc
We have taken part in 'Waste Week' previously and have invited parents to collect and recycle aluminium and steel cans along with small electrical items. All metal was weighed by a local scrap merchant and the funds generated used for Eco resources.
All children on school dinners now place an order with the school kitchen and choose their dinner each morning. This has dramatically reduced the amount of food waste produced by the kitchen who are now able to accurately cook the correct amount of dinners from the orders.
Also, twice a year, we take part in a clothes recycling scheme. Bags2School deliver bags which are sent home for parents to fill with unwanted clothes, shoes, bags etc which are returned to school and collected. The unwanted items are then sold to importers and wholesalers in many countries of Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and Asia which all benefits the Circular Economy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic we realised many of our children had outgrown their uniforms and were unable to purchase or afford complete new ones. We introduced a 'Uniform Swap Shop' and asked for donations of unwanted uniform which we could swap and give to those children in need of new uniform.
We also looked at our library, removed some old and dated books and purchased some new and exciting books to interest the children. We then offered the used books to each Key Stage to take home and read.
A changing climate and a growing population could mean more of us having to share less water meaning water conservation will become an issue. Treating and pumping water to homes, schools and businesses uses huge amounts of energy and heating the water costs everybody. St Stephen's has recognised savings can be made in this area and have purchased water butts for the Eco Garden to keep our flowers and vegetables well watered.
To assist with the watering of the plants in the polytunnel, we have recycled an old water tank from school and used old plastic pipework to create an irrigation system. We have remodelled the guttering from Reception's garage to drain into the water tank so we are able to use rainwater to provide water for the plants and flowers in the polytunnel. Please have a look at the system in action...............
We have also invested in self flushing urinals and self closing automatic taps.
In addition, we have plastic bottles filled with pebbles inserted into each toilet cistern so less water is used for each flush. We are hoping to see a reduction in our water bills reflecting the investments and initiatives we have made.