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Featured school: the unstoppable team at Goat Lees Primary School

This small community school of students are punching high above their weight as they strive for a better planet.

Here is what they have been up to in the last 18 months in their own words:

  • Our Meadow and Pond area

The children and staff have been hard at work on our Year 6 Project to improve the wildlife area at the top of our school’s field. We created a pond and a wildlife meadow that are now a haven for wildlife. We planted some willow to hopefully form a shady spot to sit under once it grows.

But there is more to do – we still need to keep planting around the pond area to make a more habitable, natural environment to encourage more insects and wildlife to visit. Plus, we have loads of different ideas to expand the biodiversity of our school grounds. Although we do currently have log piles, bug hotels and bird boxes, you can never have too much to support the local wildlife.

The left-over pallets from the bird hides are going to be turned into compost bins and, possibly, a mud kitchen and solar hand wash station up by the Forest School for the key stage 1 children.

We have also started to build some bird watching pallet hides in amongst the wildflowers and tall grass. This area, last year, was not only a lovely calming space for us, but we saw so many different butterflies, bees and bugs; it was truly amazing.

  • Building Habitats – Log Pile

We built a log pile in our school’s pond area. We decided to construct it in a far corner so the creatures that wanted to live there would not be disturbed as much. We were hoping that maybe a passing newt, frog or toad might find it welcoming as it was near to water. Obviously, we were confident that many different insects would definitely find it appealing.

We dug a little dip in the ground and placed logs and stones, randomly so that it looked nice and natural. We have plants that are growing around it so that would give extra shelter to hide in.

Hopefully we will have some creatures occupying our lovely log pile soon.

  • Putting Up Our Bird Boxes

We have been busy making our hides for bird watching out of pallets. Now that we have finished them, we need to encourage more birds into our school. We are lucky to have lots of trees surrounding our school, but we could always do with more, so we have planted 10 trees at the top of our school field to make a micro-wood. We hope in the future, when it grows up, it will encourage more birds into our grounds.  We have also put up two bird boxes (one was made by a parent and the other donated). With the new bird boxes and the bird feeder stations we have erected; we hope we will see even more birds.

  • Let it Grow!

Last year we decided to let an area at the top of our field grow ‘wild’. It was so successful we have decided to keep it. We are now in the process of laying some bark paths through the meadow and planting a willow ‘quiet’ chilling area. We have also started to build some bird watching pallet hides in amongst the wildflowers and tall grass. This area, last year, was not only a lovely calming space for us, but we saw so many different butterflies, bees and bugs; it was truly amazing.

  • Making Bird Feeders

In February, a group of six children from Pygmy Class made some bird feeders using oranges. First, we cut the oranges in half, scooped out the seeds and ate the orange segments, then filled the orange shells full of suet and wild bird seeds.

It was a sticky job mixing together all the suet and seeds, but fun. It was so snowy that day (even a mini snow blizzard) that we thought the birds would be grateful for the calorific snack.

  • Our Bio-diversity Survey

Our reception class went around our school to take a bio-diversity survey looking at all the natural habitats the school had to offer. We used the RSPB tick list and drew pictures of what we found. Our school has lots of different habitats, some natural (wild meadow, trees, natural pond) and some have been made (bird boxes, log piles, insect houses).

  • Year 1 & 2 Learning about Bees and Pollination

We had some raised planters built on our school playground so that Year 1 and 2 could plant some flowers to attract bees. After taking nearly a whole afternoon filling them with soil, the children then planted some garden flowers and sowed some seeds for wildflowers to attract as many bees as possible.

We also made some lovely bee houses with some welcoming signs.

  • Pond Dipping with the professionals  

The children all took turns to, gently, use their nets to see what they could find on and in the water of our school’s wildlife pond. We also took a look in amongst the plants growing in the pond, and carefully skimmed the bottom to see what we could find lurking below. When we caught something, we placed it in a tray of water so that we could all see, and identify, what we had found.  We had a fabulous time and found lots of amazing pond life.

  • ‘Shake the Tree’

Year 4, Cashmere class, went out to ‘Shake the Tree’ to see what bugs they could find living in and around our school field.  They were very lucky to have a lady linked to Godinton House Estate, Ashford, who brought along the equipment they needed.

They successfully found shield bugs; various spiders; ants; various beetles

  • The Big Schools’ Bird Watch

On a very rainy Friday in January, some Year 6 Pygmy Class children took part in the RSPB Big Schools’ Bird Watch. Six of our class, who were in school on that day, went out with a clip board and a keen eye to see how many birds they could spot in our school grounds. Before going out, the children looked at the ‘Bird Identifier’ sheet, which was supplied in the pack, so they knew what to look for to help them recognise the birds.

They correctly identified the following: 1 robin, 2 magpies, 1 crow, 2 herring gulls, 18 sparrows, 3 wood pigeon, 7 blackbirds, 2 blue tit and 1 coal tit. We submitted our results on to the RSPB website.

It was a very chilly, wet day but they really enjoyed spotting all the birds; they also saw a few nests high up in the surrounding trees.

We have now built three bird watching hides, up in our meadow area, from old wooden pallets which have pictures and descriptions (supplied by RSPB) on the insides for easy identification.

It was a fabulous day finding many different insects.

  • Year 6 Compostariums

As a bonding group activity for Year 6, we made some compostariums using cardboard boxes.

First, we all watched a video explaining composting, showing the importance of micro-organisms and mini-beasts and the part they played in the decomposition of the natural waste. We then collected a mix of ‘brown’ and ‘green’ waste, including grass cuttings, brown leaves, shredded paper, vegetable peelings and fruit.

We found a suitable area to place our mini compostariums (in our vegetable garden area) and set about, in pairs, layering up our boxes.

We have now chosen two children, which will change each week, to be in charge of watering and topping up our mini compost heaps, plus taking photos and logging what mini beasts we see working their magic within our boxes.

  • Our Micro-Wood

It has been very exciting for us, as we received a long-awaited delivery at the end of April.

Way back, before the Covid lockdowns began, we applied for the possibility of being selected to receive some trees and shrubs from the Free Trees for Schools Appeal. The Year 6 pupils looked at the different varieties of native trees that would be suitable for our school grounds. They also looked at the needs of the trees available, to make sure they picked the correct ones for the space we had and, with fingers crossed, sent off our application.

In the last week of April, the tree pack arrived. It contained: 5 crabapple trees, 5 Hazel trees, 5 dogwood trees, 5 dog rose shrubs and 5 hawthorns. Some Year 6 pupils quickly set about marking out and planting. With the trees and shrubs supplied, we are hoping to have a micro-wooded environment to encourage even more wildlife into our already nature-friendly school, edge by a wild hedgerow. This will add to our wild meadow area and natural pond at the top of our field, which is springing to life now the cold weather seems to have eased up a little.

Our work will not stop, and we are so excited for the new school year!

 

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