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Ringwood School Update – Environment

Some projects cannot be confined to one school term. Furthermore, several straddle the people, animals and environment divide! PEP TALK, our campaign for the eradication of non-recyclable yogurt pots is an example of both. Running throughout the year, the campaign was inspired by graphic images of marine animals destroyed by plastic in the Pacific. We have seen similar evidence on our coast in southern England:  One World indeed.  This simple campaign from a school has had real resonance in business, with Yeo Valley lending massive support and producing their new four pack yoghurts in PET. We have been lucky enough to visit their inspiring headquarters overlooking Blagdon Water twice this summer. We would encourage all Roots and Shoots Schools to support our campaign to eradicate non-recyclable pots and replace them with HDPE or PET. Two sixth form students won a place at the USA’s ‘Plastics are Forever’ Conference this summer and presented our case.

We were invited to give a presentation of PEP TALK to Ringwood Rotary Club and subsequently Hyde District Climate Change Forum. Chronobots Nuala, Ellie, Ed, Anna and Anna volunteered and did a great job explaining the project, and their parents and grandparents made a welcome addition to the climate change group.  The audience were not just appreciative; they were knowledgeable. The presence of three plastics experts could surely not be explained by chance alone!  We were delighted to be invited to join in with the group’s seed swap which took place after our talk.  

A visit to a Dorset company was interesting. They screen and sort ALL plastics and send them for recycling.  Here environment meets people (and local politics) making it difficult for students to understand why their own county is supporting more gravel extraction with landfill to follow.(see Purple Haze)  

Thus the path continues to be both interesting and challenging, but images of the animals endure, and this summer the next step for these students is the production of a video.


We have invited several external Agents into school to talk to our students and to run small workshops. They include Agent Tim C’s workshop that allowed students to work with sustainably sourced local woods; Agent W’s ‘promise trees’ in different languages; a popular session run by Agent Elena FL making environmentally friendly beauty products; a ‘Green Dragon’ competition hosted by Agent E P and a workshop where students could learn how to make biodiesel and sustainable glue.  Agent S P set up a workshop that focussed on waste, today’s with that at different time periods in history.


We are, of course, teaching it in the curriculum, but that is not what this account considers. Instead we describe what a specific group of students can do about climate change! it is students rather than adults who will bear the brunt of the consequences of our failure to control climate change, and most know that. Students know that greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach,. Our solar pv and other energy saving measures, such as sun tubes, motion sensors for lights reduce our carbon emissions and energy bill. In early summer, we installed the powerPerfector (left) that students won with their PEP TALK campaign. We also installed an energy meter that allows real time monitoring of electricity use.

Big ideas make big energy savings but students continued with those small actions that make a difference:  encouraging people to switch their computers and projectors off when not in use and to turn their radiators down when they’re hot rather than opening their windows in the middle of winter.

In July, Agent H invited in local firm ‘Green Energy’ who brought in an energy bus which children could explore while they were learning about alternative energy.  (Right – inside the bus)

Year 12 students organised a big ‘Pump it Up’ campaign.  Although, of course we’d advocate walking or cycling, many people HAVE to drive to work. This being the case, we thought a sensible move would be to ensure tyres were inflated to the correct pressure. The Year 12 students that made up the Pump It Up team were on a mission to get as many tyres as possible pumped up to recommended levels because driving efficiently is better for the environment and for the wallet. E-tyres of Bournemouth were asked to help, and with fifteen willing Year 12s clad in high visibility jackets, 110 cars had their tyres tested.  

The result?  65% of cars tested had under-inflated tyres!  Fuel and money saved! Emissions minimised. Just three cars had over-inflated tyres. Possibly lives saved here. After having fun with calculations, one Year 12 Chrono-bot wrote,

The average person who drives 12,000 miles yearly on under-inflated tyres uses about 545.1 extra litres of fuel at a cost of a year at a cost of £757 for diesel or  £730 for petrol.  And each time one of those one of those litres of petrol is burned 2.36 kg of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. If the fuel is diesel, 2.65kg of COis added by burning every litre.  Roughly then, any vehicle running on soft tyres is contributing as much as 1.5 extra tons of greenhouse gases to the environment annually. This means we should have prevented 165 tons of CO2 being released!

The verdict of Year 12s? They all agreed they learnt a lot, and not just how to check tyre pressures and inflate tyres. Thanks to Dan they also had a great training in aspects of car handling and road safety.

Two weather surveys 

In spring, a novel but appealing weather survey was carried out in near perfect weather conditions by Year 7 Chrono-bots and their friends. They worked with sixth form students on a 1:2 ratio.  The chill of the early morning began to disappear giving a bright sunny morning. Unfortunately there were no contrails; there were no clouds to be identified and neither their speed nor direction could be measured! The compensation was that there was air movement at ground level and to everyone’s delight, this was measured by watching the movement of bubbles!

Students learnt a technique that let them to measure the cloud direction with a mirror. They measured temperature and assessed their own perceptions of temperature. After collecting a good set of data in a relatively short time, each student pair was given a unique ID;  results were sent off where they will be used in climate models in climate research.

The survey generated much interest, so we were delighted to be given extra measuring devices when we gained membership of the Weather Club.  We held a second survey session with Rob and Rosie explaining the early findings, as the science behind the survey is interesting and makes a direct contribution to scientists’ understanding of global weather patterns. Survey 2 was held on a showery day in June and was as successful as the first. Thanks to Rob and Rosie for all this!

What else can have can we do regarding climate change?

Several students in our campaigns team have written in support of Friends of the Earth’s initiatives and letters to Ministers regarding climate change. For instance, they asked for specific improvements in the energy bill that went through parliament in the summer term. As Energy prices continue to rise, some have written to the Housing Minister to end the delay to cutting emissions and energy bills in cold rented homes.

 A drought garden

We read about Chrono-Bot R00T5 travels to a drowned, insect ridden future and researched malaria but our new project for summer 2011 was eventually inspired by a Dustbowl Mission where R00T5 travels to a future where crops have failed leading to dust storms !

Our climate change group has joined forces with the KS3 growers to plan a wildlife garden that will really highlight the impact of climate change. The plan is to create a garden that uses no water other than available rainwater but which remains attractive to wildlife.  As the plot faces south and has a poor, thin soil, this is a real challenge. Much time and effort has gone into the planning; plants that show adaptations to dry climate by restricting water loss have been chosen and gravel has been obtained from a local firm. All that is required for the plans to come to fruition is funding and we’re working hard at that!  Explanatory plaques are seen by the students to be essential, and these are expensive.

Students understand that climate change is a global issue. Therefore the decision was made to give half the proceeds from ‘Fair Swap’ (see People section) to the East African drought appeal through ‘Send a Cow’ who we already support and who had a programme of sustainable agricultural assistance. Drought prevention measures are an intrinsic part of their work.

Starburst bracelets

Ringwood is a school that recycles everything possible, from CDs to belts, from batteries to bras, raising funds for charities such as RNIB, breast cancer research, a children’s hospice, a New Forest dog charity, WWF and Care for the Wild.  This is accomplished by students in tutor groups across every year group.  Like all other schools, ‘non-uniform days ‘and special  days such as ‘Jeans for Genes’ are held throughout the year, but these are not Roots and Shoots events.

Governor Mrs Dawn Smith is one of our keenest recyclers who has been part of PEP TALK since its inception and regularly collects metal from school and takes it to be recycled.  Money earned is reinvested in sustainable activities.  This summer, inspired by videos of marine animals that had plastic waste, Mrs Smith ran workshops showing students how to recycle waste plastic bags into pots, bookmarks and bags, by knitting and crochet.   Her paper jewellery workshops using recycled ‘Starburst’ wrappers and crisp packets were amazingly popular. And it all started with a simple idea that challenged the non recyclable nature of yoghurt pots!

Green fingered Chronobots

An enthusiastic group of KS3 students, real Roots and Shootsers, raised seeds in the lab and planted out carrots, runner beans, French beans. potatoes, tomatoes (including some experimental grafted tomatoes), onions, shallots, lettuce, rocket, spring cabbage, cauliflower, papers and courgettes. This is a greater variety than we have ever grown before. Helped by the hot weather in April, growth was astonishing and Agent Wood (pictured) had already used some of the produce in the school canteen by mid May! (left)

Left – our veg in the canteen!

When we return to school in September, we know that our runner beans are ready!

Various people for donated seeds to us: New Forest Transition. Hyde District Climate Change Forum (who invited us to participate in their seed swap), members of staff and an anonymous member of the public who donated dozens of packets of seeds at reception one April morning! We now have two growing areas available for KS3 students in addition to the allotment area that is managed by land-cased science Diploma students.

 A community wildlife garden

Another‘cross-over’ project started when we invited our local raptor centre to talk to our keen wildlife and biodiversity group.  Animals were again the inspiration, and the event is described in the ‘animals’ section.

When a former student, now working on bat research, asked leading students Rob and Rosie to create a wildlife garden in a gravel car park adjacent to the raptor centre, they recruited sixteen students from our Roots and Shoots wildlife and biodiversity group. We visited the site in the winter (see below), took measurements and photographs, and planned a garden that would suit this difficult north-west facing site on a large car park!  We wanted the garden to be capable of attracting as much wildlife as possible. This was a great challenge to us: here was a genuine community project, some distance from our school!

Students in this group were already ‘wildlife aware.’  Nevertheless, much research through books, magazines and the internet, revealed a suitable range of plants. They included, as planned, cranesbills, buddleia, lavender, rosemary, teasel, other thistles, grasses, verbena, foxglove, verbascum, a range of small herbs such as thyme and marjoram. We also took advice and purchased other plants that were certainly new to students and that encourage bees. They drew up plans on a template and we incorporated the ideas from every student. We begged and borrowed plants, and obtaining some funds to allow some purchasing of plants from local suppliers, and our ‘dig –in’ took place.  Students will be producing explanatory labels in the next few weeks.

Rob and Lou spent six hours the weekend before the event clearing the ground of a particularly tenacious perennial, and the team moved in. The result, as shown below, was spectacular!  A real earthy ‘Roots and Shoots’ event!  Images show before and after shots!

Before: March 2011

AFTER: June 2011

Hedges and Trees

This project was a wonderful opportunity us to gather data about life in our hedgerows. Ringwood School has many hedges, many planted by students. Some are rich in biodiversity and others have only one species, but all were surveyed by our wildlife students when they carried out a national hedge biodiversity survey. The data gathered was entered by Rob onto a national database that was coordinated by the Natural History Museum and University College London. It will be used to evaluate the state of our hedgerows and used to inform future actions that seek to encourage wildlife to visit and make their homes in and below the natural vegetation.

We subsequently increased our biodiversity even more by planting 50 small saplings in an unattractive area outside a classroom!  (BELOW – digging team!)

Finally, building on one of last year’s projects, in May we completed a small line of apple trees to mark the edge of our ‘Jubilee Garden’

Purple haze
Year 11 student LUCAS mounted a campaign at the end of the summer term to save a local forest from gravel extraction and subsequent landfill.  Hampshire proposes a huge landfill site that will occupy a third of Moors Valley.  Lucas wrote a personal letter of complaint to Hampshire County Council and asked other students to about the issue on the campaign website then to email him and join his campaign 

He urged students and parents to send objection letters as soon as possible, and said that that HCC will only be counting unique letters, meaning that each letter must be different.  Lucas is a great champion for the environment, part of our energy team and a great recycler. We all wish him well with the campaign which continues over the summer holidays.

Lucas and other student want to know why a new landfill site is needed here, in a forest, when the technology of New Earth Solutions’ a few miles down the road, is available to recycle residual waste.

Aliens and invasive species

 Joanne Gore of Hampshire Wildlife Trust introduced our Roots and Shoots wildlife group to the New Forest Non Native Invasive Plants Project.  Using the familiar red and grey squirrels, and the less familiar crayfish, students learnt about aliens.  When specimens of plant predators,  Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Crassula were passed round, students practised  their identification skills noting that we already have Parrot’s Feather and Crassula in our school ponds.  A series of slides followed and students learnt about a range of species that are playing havoc with our native wildlife. Stories of Giant Hogweed’s ability to cause giant blisters on the skin, gained students’ rapt attention, and everyone found it difficult to believe that the attractive Himalayan Balsam did so much damage. 

This fascinating talk had another purpose- to recruit a number of students to work as a community conservation task force in the local area ‘doing their bit’ in the fight against these aggressive plants.  By June plants had emerged and grown, and our Roots and Shootsers undertook some early morning conservation work along Dockens Water, a New Forest stream, focusing on the beautiful but highly invasive Himalayan BalsamStudents learnt that this plant tolerates the low light levels of Dockens Water and shades out other vegetation, gradually impoverishing habitats by killing off other plants.  Plants had reached 6-10ft in height, dwarfing many Year 7 s! Clusters of purplish pink flowers were beginning to be followed by explosive seed pods. With each plant producing up to 800 seeds and with pods shooting their seeds up to 7m away they were dispersed widely and were being transported downstream by the stream (Dockens Water) ready to germinate in fresh ground. Our Chronobot task force joined Bob and Jo and set about removing it. They found pulling Himalayan Balsam was hard work but fun: a great community ‘Roots and Shoots’ event.

As a thank you, our sixth form organisers attended a ‘Himalayan Balsam Pullers’ barbeque’ (note the T shirt) with the local Wildlife Trust on August 24th. A great way in which to end a good summer’s work!



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