Our project is to steer Priestlands and the school community towards a more sustainable future. The process began in March 2006 when we registered the school as an Eco School and since then the scope of the project has grown as have the number of people within the community who are involved. As part of an environmental audit of the school undertaken by the students they ‘discovered’ a derelict one acre Victorian walled garden within the grounds. Since then the students have been working alongside other people from the community (local farmers, parents and teachers) to restore it and turn it into a walled garden for the 21st century. They have already had many successes: after months of work the site was cleared of trees, brambles and most of the rubbish; they grew and harvested vegetables and fruit from three raised beds over the summer; they introduced chickens and installed an eco cam which is viewable from their web site.
The walled garden aspect of the project has been hugely successful (it featured on BBC Breakfast in September as well as South Today, Newsround, News at One, News 24 and has featured in three BBC Radio Solent shows and numerous local newspaper articles. Our vision is to use the walled garden as a resource with which to explore and come to understand how to live in a more sustainable way. We have made a plan, drawn up by a local landscape architect, which includes building an eco classroom within the walled garden within which students and other members of the community could learn about all aspects of sustainability.
The project has been entirely self funded so far – initially by myself – but since last Spring we have attracted money from various grants from organisations such as the Princes Trust, Hampshire Gardens Trust and the NFU.
One of our aims is to restore a quarter of the garden to a state where vegetables can be grown by the students both as a curriculum based and extra curricula activity. I have spoken to Hampshire catering service and they are excited and fully supportive.
The sustainable school project has many facets, so far we have been concentrating on the walled garden and how to develop it as a centre within which to experience and explore what it means to live in a sustainable manner. We plan to build an eco classroom within the garden so students and the local community can learn within a building built using sustainable technology. This is quite ambitious and will require a great deal of fund raising.
Within the school itself we have started a re-cycling or freecycle centre in the library where students and staff can drop off anything they do not want (mobile phones, folders etc) and items are sorted and displayed for clollection by anyone who has a use for the item. The eco warriors have lobbied the senior management to put recycling bins in all classrooms. And £10,000 has been raised to go towards either a wind turbine or solar panels for electricity generation.
We have a long way to go but we believe that as Margaret Mead said:
‘Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.’