We are very proud to announce that we have been awarded the contract to develop the Outdoor Learning area at Jerry Clay Primary Academy in Wakefield.
This blog will serve as a running commentary on the project for which we are merely facilitators with the concept creators and delivers being the children themselves!
To begin with, we were called in by Mr Palin who was desperate to revitilise the school pond / wildlife area. The area was fenced off and had been neglected for a number of years. On inspection the pond was found to be a lost cause. Fortunately Mr Palin was not easily defeated so he asked us what ideas we might have to rejuvinate the pond and breathe new life into the whole wildlife area.
Below is the sketch plan before, followed by the concept design. This was created after consultation with the school staff and children (in the form of the school council). The idea was to create a cross-curricular learning area which would encourage staff and children alike to learn in the outdoors; whether to explore science and nature, or work on creative writing and maths. Eden's Forest encouraged the staff and children to look beyond wildlife and to see the outdoors as a learning resource for the taking.
In essence the outdoor learning area would consist of a central gathering area / outdoor classroom, with a series of orbital learning stations (each able to accommodate 6-8 children working on tasks). The gathering / classroom area would be an enormous 7m living willow dome with seating and a central firepit. Tunnels would lead out to the learning stations which would each have its own identity. As the children move to their working area they would pass either the quiet sensory garden, or the (much improved!) pond / wildlife area. There would also be a selection of trained fruit trees along one fence line so in the summer and autumn children could pick their own fruit.
To follow are some 'before' photographs taken of the site on the day we began marking out the plan with the children from Year 5.
As you can see there was an old pond with zero habitat value. Most of the site was over-run with nettles and brambles.
The first job was to get a digger in to clear pathways, learning areas and redig the pond...
The digger did a wonderful job, and KS1 particularly enjoyed coming to see 'Scoop' in action and even sang the 'Bob The Builder' song to him!
Unfortunately due to the shallow clay, once the hole was dug, it began to fill with groundwater.
This was only really a problem while we were trying to get the liner in place and Jerome (an ex-Hydrogeologist!) had a plan to deal with it.
The children from Years 3 and 6 had a great time shifting woodchips, digging turf, laying sand for the pond liner and helping to get the liner in place. Four girls from Year 3 were especially helpful bailing the pond excavation out ready for the liner - thank you girls!
At the end of the day - this is what it's all about:
Next job is getting the willow planted before the warm weather makes it think it's spring already!
Here we are a few weeks later with the willow classroom in and growing on strongly.
Here are two of the six learning stations: The beginning of our giant birds' nest, and a willow half dome.
It's amazing how nature just gets on with things - we've gained (and lost!) hundreds and hundreds of tadpoles; two British Smooth Newts, and more minibeasts than you can shake a pooter at! It's completely brilliant and the children are loving it!
Keep checking in to see what we're up to...:)