Environmental Education visits for urban schools

NAEE’s Kenrick Days project offers bursaries for West Midlands schools to visit environmental education centres for curriculum-focused activities. One of the main considerations when choosing schools to receive the bursaries is the catchment area of the school, with priority given to schools that are situated in deprived areas and those with little or no green space in and around the school site. When applying, teachers are asked to give details in answer to the following two questions:

· How will the visit link to environmental activities carried out in your school?
· How will the visit develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the environment and help to foster caring attitudes?

Some of the information included in applications have included:

“The visit will give the children the opportunity to see the countryside and to experience a more natural environment, away from the city streets and buildings. It will also help them develop environmental awareness. This will in turn bring the wider world closer to them”.
Somerville Primary School, Small Heath

“The school is situated in the middle of… a large council estate. We are in an area of high social need and have a high percentage of children that are pupil premium (81%). The school site is mainly concrete or Astro turf. We believe that outdoor learning is key to raising our pupils’ wellbeing and life experiences. Many of the children are not receiving wider experiences and so are unable to talk about the wildlife and environments because they are not taken out of the area by their parents or carers.”
The Oaks Primary School, Druids Heath

“The visit will not only develop children’s knowledge and scientific understanding but it will raise children’s environmental awareness. This will enable them to educate our school and the wider community. The children attending the centre will be from our Eco-schools team and science ambassadors. Their role provides a unique opportunity that empowers pupils to lead change within our school and have a positive impact in their wider community”. 
St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School, Northfield

There follow extracts from three reports from schools in urban areas of Birmingham – Kings Heath, Handsworth and Sparkhill – that visited Kenrick venues. These reports show the benefits that were gained by the pupils, not only in terms of curriculum coverage, but the new experiences that they had, how they were inspired to love the outdoors, and the environmental attitudes they were able to take away.

St Dunstan’s Primary School, Year 2 Kenrick Day visits to Martineau Gardens
The environment of Martineau Gardens provided ample opportunities for the children to investigate our summer science topic ‘Living Things in their Habitats’. Many children enjoyed smelling and tasting the herbs in the herb garden and understanding that some plants can be eaten, while others cannot. Using their senses to listen to sounds from within and beyond the gardens and to smell, touch and taste edible plants created a wonderful sensory experience. One child so enjoyed the chives she kept running back to pick some more, exclaiming that they were “lovely!”.

Eagle-eyed children spotted something yellow growing at the base of a tree and soon learnt that this was a fungus and should not be touched. The children were captivated by a rather large caterpillar which was eating its way through a plant, while others were fascinated by a group of spiderlings, which scattered when gently blown. Photos of these were used back in school to support teaching about micro-habitats.

During the course of the day, the children were encouraged to use sensory adjectives when talking about the plants and to use spoken sentences to justify answers and opinions.

In school, the children talked about their visit with enthusiasm and wrote a recount of their day in their English lessons. For many, playing together in the pirate themed play area was the highlight of the visit as was, of course, eating their packed lunch! 

Rookery School, Year 1 Kenrick Day Visit to Mount Pleasant School Farm
In Geography lessons, Year 1 pupils at Rookery School had been learning about the physical and human features of different localities. It was deemed necessary for children to experience these different environments in order for them to get a better understanding of their physical and human features. Prior to visiting Mount Pleasant School Farm, children explored their local environment: an inner-city urban area. Following this, they visited Woodgate Valley Country Park, where they had the opportunity to experience the countryside. Mount Pleasant School Farm was the final location that was visited. The aim of this visit was for children to consolidate their understanding of, and make observations about, the physical and human features of different localities. In addition, teachers saw the visit as an opportunity for children to see a range of animals, which was to be our next topic

The children had a wonderful time exploring the farm environment, feeding the animals and learning about milking cows and collecting eggs. It was heart-warming to see the excitement on the children’s faces, most of whom had never visited a farm before. One child exclaimed: “This is the best trip I have ever had!” Others wanted to express their gratitude to Nicky, the farm guide and wrote ‘Thank you’ cards for her when they got back to school. This outcome was not planned but something that the children themselves wanted to do, which demonstrated how much they had enjoyed their farm experience.

The planned outcomes for the children, following their visit, included writing a recount of their trip in literacy; talking about the physical and human features of a farm in geography; and checking the weight of different eggs in maths.

Following the visit, it has been noted that there has been a change in some children’s attitude towards their environment. During the visit, the children were shown children different ‘bins’ and explained that all rubbish should be sorted and put in the right bins. One child remembered this and upon returning to school wanted to throw her apple core in the right bin so that it could be given to the pigs at the farm. As a result, a food bin has been provided for the children to throw away their left-over fruit – something that is enthusiastically used not only in the Year 1 classes that visited the farm but across the whole school.

The visit to Mount Pleasant School Farm was greatly appreciated by both children and adults. It has been a useful tool in enhancing children’s understanding of the world they live in and has provided a fantastic base for children’s learning outcomes.

St John’s Church of England Primary School, Year 3 Kenrick Day visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens
During Year 3’s recent topic ‘Brilliant Botanists’, we focused our learning around caring for the environment; the anatomy of plants; how plants grow and what they need for survival; and naming a variety of plants and the environments that they need in order to grow. The children’s knowledge of plants and the environment is limited due to the lack of opportunities to experience nature and wildlife in the community. Although there are plenty of opportunities to visit gardens and parks in Birmingham, many of the children at St. John’s don’t venture out of Sparkhill.

St John’s is based in an inner-city area of Birmingham with high deprivation. The school is two form entry with 79% of children with English as an additional language (EAL). Nearly a sixth of pupils receive support for their special educational needs and/or disability (SEND). We try to fit in as many enrichment opportunities with each topic to give children hands-on, real-life experiences. Birmingham Botanical Gardens fitted perfectly with our topic and gave the children a chance to explore tropical greenhouse environments as well as some amazing gardens. We chose to attend the session titled ‘Growth’ to build upon what we had been learning at school.

Each year 3 class got to explore the glasshouses, looking at the koi carp, cacti and tropical plants. The children could not believe the size of the fish and loved looking at all the different patterns on them. After looking in the greenhouses, we ventured into the beautiful gardens. The children sketched some of the plants and flowers that they could see. They particularly loved picking up petals from rhododendron walk and pinecones that had fallen from the trees. Then we walked to the birdhouses. The children were amazed by the ‘blue pigeon’ that was wondering around near the bird house, which was in fact a peacock!

Due to it being a sunny day, the children were able to run freely around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens. Some children were rolling down the steep hills. This became a highlight for many of the children.

“My favourite part was seeing the peacocks and rolling down the hills, I love nature”. 

Then we had our classroom session. It was brilliant and covered all of the science curriculum objectives for our Brilliant Botanists topic. The session was at the right level for the children and was really interactive. They learnt about the different parts of a flower, what it needs to grow, and pollination. The children listened really well and were able to apply some of their prior knowledge.

“We need plants to give us oxygen but lots of people are chopping down all the trees so we won’t have any oxygen”. 

The children could label the stamen, carpel, sepal and petals which we had learnt at school too. After that, they found out about seed dispersal and pollination. The children dressed up to role play how pollination occurs. It really helped their understanding of the process.

Once back at school, we planted a range of seeds and some of the children planted some of their own sunflower seeds at home and brought them back to school, having been inspired by the trip. We also based our English lessons all around writing about a magical garden. This was inspired by the children’s amazement at the beautiful grounds of the Botanical Gardens.

Reports written by teachers from the schools.