As Ringwood’s work on the One World theme continued throughout the Summer term, we tried to meet the Roots & Shoots challenge of spreading the word of Roots & Shoots (Exercise 2 of J’s Lost Notebook). The many school and community projects that we have been involved with and that are described below, have allowed us to share the ideas of Roots & Shoots.
We agree with the Roots & Shoots principle that is so beautifully demonstrated with the Greater Gombe ecosystem, that making small scale local changes can make a big difference over time. Our first application of this principle relates to Fairtrade. Our Chronobots have worked throughout the year to raise the profile of Fairtrade in the community. To this end, we held a Fairtrade football match against Salisbury High School. The atmosphere was terrific and certainly raised the profile of Fairtrade in an unusual and meaningful context. We were also able to introduce the staff and students of Salisbury High to Roots & Shoots. At the time of writing, students have sent several reports to the press. This (below) is the first to be published:
World Cup fever was alive and kicking at Salisbury High School as South Africa (Salisbury High) played England (Ringwood School) in two friendly but competitive five-a-side matches to raise awareness of Fairtrade. The students wore Fairtrade shirts (sponsored by Barchester Green Investments), meticulously embroidered with each country’s national flag by SHS parent Mrs Judith Wreford, and played with a Fairtrade football. Staff served Fair Trade orange juice, bananas and biscuits whilst students, fittingly, sold Fairtrade jewellery produced by Nqabakazulu School in South Africa with whom SHS has enjoyed a link for many years.
Student commentator, Joe Booth, kept up a witty description of the matches as Salisbury High School boys outclassed Ringwood to win 2-0. The girls were evenly matched and despite heroic efforts on both teams, ended in a 0-0 draw.
Mrs Jane Munroe from the Salisbury Fairtrade Group presented trophies to the winning teams. Mrs Rock, Extended Schools Co-ordinator, explained,
‘Events like these are essential in raising awareness of Fairtrade issues and if we can have fun in the process, so much the better. There was a fantastic atmosphere here today and the event has been so successful that Ringwood School have invited us for a re-match next year. Ringwood even took away the Fairtrade shirts to use in a fashion show they are holding this week to raise awareness of Fairtrade and eco issues.’
As you will have read, Ringwood could have done better, so we plan a return match! We thought what a great idea it would be to have matches between lots of Fairtrade schools in Southern England. This was yet another opportunity to spread the Roots & Shoots word.
A second major community event that demonstrates the impact of small local events was a recent Fairtrade and Vintage fashion show, organised by sixth form Chronobots. They obtained funding for advertising from Ringwood Town Council with whom they regularly liaise, both by inviting Councillors to our own meetings and by sitting in council meetings at their headquarters. This evening event was planned for not only parents, but also for the general public. They carefully sandwiched the show in the middle of the school’s evening art exhibition to maximise the audience.
Charity shops gladly supplied the ‘vintage’ and were pleased that several of the garments were sold during the evening. Again, a small action made a difference outside the school. Fairtrade garments were loaned by ‘Timber’ a wonderful ethical store in Ringwood who has also been introduced to Roots & Shoots. Chronobots also obtained clothes from People Tree and Gossypium, and were thrilled to obtain some with the ‘Emma Watson’ name attributed to them. A catwalk was created, appropriate music chosen, lighting arranged and models were ‘volunteered’. Thus models of both sexes, staff and students from all years between Years 7 and 12, made their short but glitzy appearance! A Fairtrade cake baked by a parent, together with Fairtrade snacks and Fairtrade wine ended a great summer’s evening of entertainment. We hope that this event will have made a really significant difference to people’s attitude to clothing and that it will have introduced some people to Fairtrade. At the time of writing, we have issued press releases and await publication of students’ accounts of the event in local newspapers.
Further Focus on Africa
The World Cup provided an obvious focus for own activities in July. Agent Hickman signed up with ‘1-goal’, purchased Fairtrade footballs and basketballs and held ‘Fairtrade’ football and basketball matches at school. Year 9 students considered how African children play football. Are there children at Gombe and do they play football? Year 9 had great fun creating African style footballs from waste polythene bags and twine that were duly tested in penalty shoot outs!
We made a contribution to ‘Send a Cow’ and purchased hessian African bag gardens. A comparison with our gardening practices was very fruitful and provided much food for thought although we have seen no evidence of such gardens at Gombe. Seeds were raised indoors and then transplanted to the sacks which students filled with compost, stones and manure. Although planted late in the season, our bag gardens are doing well. Students have understood the message that our actions have helped a small village community and that what we do with our own rather magnificent raised beds (below) are not very far removed from bag garden practices in Africa.
Another group of Year 9 Chronobots have been supporting the work of Tools for Self Reliance. This year they have packed and refurbished tools for Tanzania. Last year’s tools were sent to Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. Agent Lewis, from TFSR reported seeing JGI vehicles when delivering the tools!
Other Chronobots worked hard on a separate composting project in the summer term. In their own time and under the guidance of Agent Roberts, they made composters from spare wooden pallets. These were engraved with images of New Forest animals by the Chronobots. When, in mid July, our ‘Eco students’ hosted a visit from a small group of students from Malawi, composting practices made an interesting point of comparison, as did recycling practices. Our Malawi visitors enjoyed a visit to the animal centre and to our gardening and recycling areas, before joining our Chronobots in lessons. Sports Day proved particularly interesting: we found our Malawi friends were brilliant at shot put and relay despite being in ‘normal’ clothing and footwear. Year 7 Chronobots, members of our Wildlife Team, focussed on wildlife in the New Forest. Our Malawi visitors did not know about Roots & Shoots!
Outdoor work and work with animals has risen to the fore this term. We have sponsored a chimpanzee; we have adopted an area of highly threatened coral reef habitat and, at the end of Charles Darwin’s bicentenary, we adopted a blue footed booby in the Galapagos Islands. We hope that these small local actions will help to ensure survival of species in a variety of ecosystems. In each case, it was our Chronobots’ decision to back these ventures.
At the time of writing, our ‘campaigns and activists’ students are in the middle of a campaign that highlights the destruction of rain forests of South East Asia, and with it, the destruction of orangutan habitat. Maybe these primates are not the chimpanzees of Gombe, but our thoughts cannot be very different from those of Dr J when she witnessed the plight of those animals half a century ago as a result of pressures from human beings. Students have challenged those companies that use unsustainable palm oil, and particularly those guilty of slight deception by their use of both the Fairtrade logo and the Rainforest Alliance logo, claiming that this is vindicated by their use of Fairtrade cocoa, while they persist in using unsustainable palm oil. Chronobots have made a huge public display and are in the middle of launching a major campaign. Students have already considered primate abilities and their rights; they know of the pressures from humankind and they have a growing understanding of sustainability. There will be further opportunity here to link with the work of R & S in Africa.
Hands on work with animals
Mindful of the need to maintain food chains, Chronobots have worked hard to improve the biodiversity of the site by continuing with tree planting schemes and introducing microhabitats in a somewhat congested site. Throughout April and May, Chronobot Ciara logged proceedings in our birdbox fitted with a web cam.
Ten bluetits hatched but only one fledged successfully, by comparison with five in 2009. We concluded that the cold winter took its toll on the food chains: with eggs appearing on exactly the same date as had occurred in 2009, the trees that supported the grubs on which the young birds were fed, were scarcely in leaf at a time when food was desperately needed. This, we concluded, was a sad but interesting warning of what future climate change could bring in our latitudes. We observed a possible mismatch between a light dependent species and temperature dependent species. Whatever, the causes, this provided students with a tough lesson about food webs, one that must be repeated in ecosystems such as in Greater Gombe.
Our Birdwatch group have taken part in weekly early morning ‘birding’ sessions in the grounds, and particularly appreciated an 8.00am visit to a local nature reserve. We engaged two other Agents who were keen to take part, Agent Colin, a scout leader, and Agent Jon, a trainee teacher. Individual Chronobot members of this group, grow in confidence with regular opportunities to observe and identify birds and we are delighted that several have registered various nests with the BTO and have taken part in their species surveys.
Invertebrates and plants have not been neglected by our highly active wildlife group. Led by a sixth form Chronobot, but an aspiring Agent, this team have made weekly observations and measurements of tree species in the grounds, contributing to the international Beagle Project. This led to the observation of a large number of ladybirds on one particular tree and their involvement in the national ladybird survey! Other invertebrate species provided further interest in the summer term: Chronobots completed OPAL’s national earthwork survey and, very recently, their POND survey. We were delighted with the results of the latter which revealed our water quality was good despite the hot weather of June and July. Finding dragonfly and alderfly larvae suggested our ponds were in good health.
Treats for Chronobots
Our Chronobots work hard! This year about 150 of them have contributed in some way to our One World Project. In addition to the activities outlined above, they have contributed to our third highly successful Green Flag award and to regional events that we have shared with other schools.
An example is ‘Beyond Recycling’ a sustainability conference shared with five secondary schools and district councillors and officers. Although not specifically a Roots and Shoots event, all have taken up the challenge and this is one of the community events that our Chronobots are most proud of. As the name suggests, the event started with recycling! Agent Lovell (pictured), licensed to deliver Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ lecture launched the day with a true Dust Bowl lecture. Chronobots then moved to a number of imaginative workshops and displays from local groups and companies. Throughout the day they were invited to consider their impact on the world and how small changes to lifestyle might make a difference. This was a wonderful day and while Roots and Shoots was not a focus, we have signed up several of the five schools!
‘Beyond Recycling’ was a true reward for worthy Chronobots, as was a visit to Southampton Oceanography’s research ship, ‘Callista’ that Agent Hickman arranged for Ringwood’s Wildlife Team. Together with students from another secondary school (who we have signed up) Chronobots trawled Southampton Water. They could explore a new ecosystem and could examine at close quarters, species of fish, crabs, molluscs, sea squirts and marine worms, they didn’t know existed. Plankton sampling was another treat especially when Chronobots were able to see them projected.
Chronobots often become Agents! Some have left school to work in conservation and several would love to work in Gombe! Year 9 students were treated to a visit from a former Chronobot, now studying for her doctorate in bats, who used birds of prey to illustrate the importance of maintaining food chains in the grounds: a superb opportunity to illustrate the importance of small local changes on a bigger picture! To students’ delight, they were able to gently explore the birds at close quarters, and were able to dissect pellets to consider the diet of these beautiful birds. The teacher, an aspiring agent, was able to extrapolate the work to consider a comparison of these food chains with those in other countries, including the grasslands of Africa that constitute the Greater Gombe ecosystem.
These events, and other non Roots and Shoots actions, have been reported in ‘Ringwood in the News’ for parents and local residents, in the local press and on the Ringwood Eco and Sustainability website. We have engaged staff, students, parents, councillors from town and district and those from other schools. We hope that we’ve shown how we’ve taken up the challenge, that we’ve spread the word and have illustrated that local actions can make a difference. We also hope you have enjoyed our account of a year’s work.