Rupert Brakspear writes about Bretforton First School’s work to involving everyone through the Eco-Schools Challenge.
Bretforton is a small, vibrant school for 73 Foundation to Year 5 pupils. The school catchment serves families from the village and neighbouring communities lying to the east of Evesham. The school’s motto is ‘Small enough to care, Strong enough to grow’ and the Head Teacher Ayse Moseley and the staff team of teachers and teaching assistants offer an exciting, broad and varied creative curriculum focused on themes developed through each term. The school has been awarded two Eco-Schools Green Flags, is working towards its third and has been particularly active in sharing their enthusiasm for the scheme, which has led to them being invited to become a Mentor Eco-School by Worcestershire County Council over 2013-14. This role involves hosting one of the termly District Eco-Schools meetings, encouraging other schools in the local 9 cluster / pyramid and writing short pieces for the Worcestershire Learning for Sustainability Newsletter to share good practice.
An initiative developed at Bretforton that has particularly inspired schools in the county (which has 74 schools with Green Flags), is their approach to setting Eco Challenges for each class at the start of each year. Every Autumn term, the Eco Committee prepare a bag that is presented at a ‘launch assembly’ early in the September term. The bag contains a challenge for each class, along with targets, some resources, ideas and links to online resources. Where possible the ‘challenges’ are designed to tie in with the term’s Creative Curriculum theme.
This approach has borne signifi cant fruit in engaging the whole school and involving all the pupils in key Eco-Schools related tasks that give a strong sense of shared ownership, embeds the work within the core and wider curriculum and links with their community. The Eco Challenge set for class three (the top class) was to:
- Design and build a bug hotel;
- Work with a local community volunteer in developing their class’s raised bed (for flowers or veg) and think about how their gardening might encourage more wildlife to the school grounds;
- Compare their school and local environment with an environment very different to theirs and explore the issues facing each;
- Take a lesson outside – maybe science or art;
- Carry out a litter survey of the school grounds.
In previous years, challenges have included work on energy, with the top class being asked to investigate the data provided by the Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system put in place by the County Council, as part of the wider Energy Saving focus for the term (the school carries out regular Switch Off fortnights and has recently installed a solar PV array). Led by the school’s Eco-Coordinators, Jo Ellis and Jane Neal, experienced teaching assistants, the school is currently creating a portfolio to compile all of the evidence of impact across a wide range of their projects to augment their already excellent Eco-Schools portfolio of evidence. Here are some quotes to end with:
“This is the third year that we have set Eco Challenges, and we are delighted with the way that we have been able to embed the nine Eco-Schools Topics into the curriculum. All pupils are enthused when working on the challenges, and tackle the real life situations with a purpose.” Jane Neal and Jo Ellis, Eco-Coordinators
“The challenges are fun and they inspire us to go outside and learn about Eco topics.” Charlotte, Year 5
“I can’t believe how many things people throw over the wall into our grounds, when they could put them in the recycling bin!” George, Year 5
For more information, please contact Rupert at: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit the school’s website.
This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 106). To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.