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Looking back at 2023 and looking forward to 2024!

Swindon Saplings is a Home Educators Group, run by parents and children, working together as a group to make the world a better place and inspire others to do the same. I felt it would be nice to take the time and look back on everything we have achieved in 2023, for the environment, animals and the community!

Our wildlife pond and allotment

Back in April, we were given the go ahead to take on an unusable allotment plot and use this as a community project. Using the money our group was awarded at the 2023 Roots & Shoots Awards, we created a beautiful wildlife pond which is now home to newts, frogs, dragonfly lavae, snails and lots of water bugs! The pond provides drinking water and somewhere to bath for the local birds and other mammals and we have placed bird feeders, log piles, a hedgehog house and bird houses which the children made, around the plot. We have also placed seating areas around the pond to give others somewhere to sit and relax to enjoy the beautiful space we created. Our pond was nominated for the RHS “In your community award” where it was awarded “Thriving”. We have also used an area of the plot to grow fruit and vegetables. We use this space to teach the children in the group about growing organically and mindfully and are currently working our way through the RHS Gardening for Schools Awards to continue educating and inspiring children through the benefits of gardening and growing your own food. We are continuing to work on our plot to create a beautiful, wild space which is good for the environment, animals and for people to be around.

 

 

Litter picking

In 2023, our group collectively removed 46 bags of rubbish from our local areas, parks and green spaces. Our actions inspired others outside of our group, to also grab their litter pickers and head out in their local areas to pick up rubbish too! Although picking up other peoples rubbish can be extremely disheartening and frustrating when it highlights how little others can care about our planet, the children and parents involved take great pleasure in picking up these items and making sure it is removed from the environment. We aim to beat this number in 2024!

Birders group

Our birders group have enjoyed many outings this year, watching and learning about birds in their natural habitat. By learning about animals and their habitats, we continue to nurture their love for nature and inspire them to protect it. We have had a group visit to WWT Slimbridge where we learnt about migration of the Bewick Swan.

Tree planting

In 2023 our group planted 420 trees, provided by the Woodland Trust free tree’s scheme! These trees have been planted to create new hedgerows on farmer Chris’ land – he continues to regenerate his land to help support the environment and the wildlife which use it. We are so excited to continue to monitor the growth of these trees and eventually see it turn into a beautiful hedgerow which will help to support birds, butterflies, deer, insects and other small mammals.

 

Nursing home visits

Our nursing home visits have been a hit. We have created relationships with two different local nursing homes where we have spent time visiting residents, planting bulbs in their gardens ready for spring, playing board games and visiting residents for Christmas themed events. Families in our group also purchased gifts for a number of residents in the care home who didn’t have family members to visit for Christmas and therefore wouldn’t have had gifts. It has been absolutely fantastic to see how much joy the children bring to the residents and we look forward to continuing this relationship with them.

Scientists in the making!

We have been involved in a young scientists project, working with the Mammal Society to identify rodents within their owl pellets. The Mammal Society are looking for evidence of the invasive White-toothed shrew and have lots of pellets to work their way through! The children were able to dissect their owl pellets, identify what rodents were inside the pellets and rule out any signs of the white-toothed shrew in the pellets we dissected. We raised £100 in donations for the Mammal Society and were honoured to be used as their pilot group for this project!

Eco gift making sessions

One of our parents ran eco gift making sessions for Christmas. Using natural colouring from onions and fabric, the children produced reusable wrap for their Christmas gifts. In another session, they created eco-friendly lip balm, hand cream and bath bombs to give as gifts to friends or family. This was a wonderful experience for the children and showed them that the best gifts to give are the ones made with love. Even better, everything used was free from plastic!

Fundraising 

As well as the £100 raised for the Mammal Society, one of our group members set out to raise money for charities in the lead up to Christmas. After helping me out with transporting a seal to the seal hospital in Cornwall for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Brea (my daughter) decided that she wanted to raise money for a number of different animal charities by making and selling bracelets and necklaces as well as soft toys which were provided by one of the charities to support the fundraising. She attended some local markets and the group came together to support this fundraising effort with many of the members coming along to buy something in support.  Although she is still fundraising, so far she has raised:

£647.50 selling soft toys and whale bracelets / necklaces for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue. BDMLR are dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales (but also a few turtles recently too!).

£56.70 selling shark bracelets and necklaces for Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation. Bite-Back actively work to protect sharks and the ocean and work tirelessly to encourage UK based restaurants to take Shark fin soup off their menus. So far, they have reduced the number of restaurants selling shark fin soup from 63 down to 14 so far. They campaign to end import and the sale of any shark based products as well as food and products of endangered or threatened fish populations. Members of our group have also signed up to be regular supports of this charity based on Brea’s awareness and fundraising campaign.

£55.50 selling paw print bracelets for Many Tears Animal Rescue. Based in South Wales, Many Tears Animal Rescue rehome hundreds of animals every year and two of our own family dogs have been adopted through Many Tears.

£55.00 selling foxes and hedgehog bracelets for wildlife rehabilitation. The money raised will go towards a number of “wish list” items for different charities to help support sick and injured animals in wildlife hospitals.

This amount raised totals £814.70, going to help the animals, wildlife and out planet! Brea has previously raised £616 selling bracelets and £1,131 by walking the Ridgeway National Trail for a local wildlife rescue. Well done Brea!

 

Inspiring others

Something I am most proud of is the impact that our little group has had on not only inspiring our families who are involved, but also on the wider community. The steps we have taken have inspired others to go out litter picking, put wildlife ponds into their gardens, putting up bird boxes and feeders in their gardens, learning more about nature, being more conscious to support wildlife. We hope that every positive action we make, can inspire others to do the same and our ripple will continue to spread.

Our plans for 2024!

We have so many plans coming up in 2024 and we cannot wait to share these with you! As a group we are growing all the time, with more families joining us and it is wonderful to create a group of eco-warriors within our home education community!

Take care and keep saving our planet!

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