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Green ideas for schools, inspired by Roots & Shoots groups!

There are hundreds of schools up and down the UK, and around the world, who are part of the worldwide Roots & Shoots community. And they’ve been doing some brilliant, creative and innovative things, engaging students with the natural world, improving their local environment and campaigning for a better planet for their students, and for people and animals worldwide.

If you’re looking for ideas for your own school or youth group, why not get inspired by others in the community! We’ve collected together a selection of ideas to spark your own creativity. Try them yourself, adapt them to your area or needs, or use them for inspiration for something altogether new!

1. Create a wildlife pond

Ponds provide important habitats for wildlife like amphibians and insects, and also drinking water for other animals like birds and small mammals. Creating one is a fairly simply process; you’ll need a patch of land, a pond liner, water, gravel for the bottom and some pondweed to help aerate the water. It’s also a good idea to plant up the area around the pond which will help provide protection for the animals that move in and out of the pond.

You don’t even need a large area to create a pond – you can make a wildlife pond in a bucket! Balgreen Primary School created one in their grounds, complete with pondweed and the all-important ladder to allow amphibians and wildlife to move in and out of the water safely.

2. Grow a wildlife garden (or corner!)

To encourage and support wildlife, you don’t need a huge area – just a little corner can do a world of good!

You could put together a little planter with wildflowers that will attract butterflies and bees, and a small pile of wood or logs that provides a home and food for things like beetles and grubs. If you’ve got a little more space, make the area bigger and include some places for students to sit; wildlife gardens are relaxing, soothing spaces and it’s lovely to watch the flowers and insects.

3. Set up a recycling station

The more waste we eliminate, the better. One way to do this is to make recycling as easy as possible, and there are loads of schemes available now to recycle pretty much everything.

Paper and plastic are obvious choices, and having recycling bins for those is a must. But you can also set up bins for recycling batteries, pens, foil, printer cartridges, tyres, shoes, clothes and more. If you’ve got space, you can also invite students to bring in things to recycle from home.

4. Go meat-free one day a week

Over Farm produce: The vegetables and fruits even have their "Food Miles" on display for the discerning shopper. By Jonathan Billinger [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest positive impacts we can make on the environment is reducing our consumption of meat. The change doesn’t have to be dramatic or all at once – eliminating meat one day a week is a great start!

If your school offers school dinners, see if it’s possible to go meat-free for one dinner a week. There are loads of amazing, satisfying veggie dishes that are as tasty as those containing meat. Encourage those with packed lunches to join in; you could brainstorm veggie packed lunch ideas.

5. Start a bicycle bus, or campaign for safe cycle routes to school

Plastic Bottle and Re-cycled Timber Shed

The most environmentally way to travel to school is by people power, like walking or cycling. It’s also great for physical health, and can benefit mental health too. But to do this, the route needs to be safe and secure.

A bicycle bus is a community-run way of helping children cycle to school. Usually organised by parents or teachers, with the support of the local council who will sometimes offer things like a control for traffic lights to provide enough time for the group to navigate crossings safely. A route is chosen, and children are ‘collected’ along the way, with adults ahead, behind and to the side to ensure everyone stays together. Most bicycle busses run once or twice a week rather than every day, and are incredibly good fun for the adults as well as the kids.

If you want to take things up a notch, and you don’t already have a safe cycle route to school, why not campaign for one? You’ll need to work with parents from the school, and work with your local council. You’ll be able to get advice and support from organisations like Sustrans.

6. Survey local trees

There’s often a lot of amazing nature right on our doorsteps that we don’t take time to appreciate. If you’re lucky enough to have trees on your school site, or nearby, why not conduct a tree survey to identify what you have, learn more about the species, and the other wildlife that’s associated with them,

You could even set up your own mini citizen science project, monitoring the tree across the four different seasons to see how they change, and what plants, animals and insects live in and around them.

And you could also investigate planting some trees, either on your school site or nearby. The Woodland Trust has a Free Trees For Schools programme that you can apply for.

7. Host a regular fundraiser

Whether you want to support a cause that helps people or you’re motivated to raise money for an environmental charity, fundraisers are a great way to come together, build community and get creative. And the best thing is you can try lots of different ideas.

A regular fundraiser provides a good focus, and an opportunity to learn. It can also be interwoven through other subjects and classes. The group could research what causes they’d like to raise money for, and why, creating a poster project that other students could vote for. Choosing what method to use for fundraising is the perfect opportunity get those creative ideas flowing; will you organise a trashion show with upcycled fashion, create chocolate lollipops to sell, or put on a talent show? Maybe a sponsored walk, run or cycle appeals? And of course you’ll need to create posters to let people know what you’re doing.

8. Start a school compost bin

Compost bins are a great way of transforming food waste into rich fertiliser to help plants grow, and is also a great way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Gardeners World has a great guide to making a compost bin using wooden pallets, which is a great starting point. You can also buy special compost bin containers but we do like the idea of making it from upcycled materials.

9. Grow your own food

If you’ve got space, why not grow some fruit or vegetables that you can all snack on? As well as fresh food with zero air miles, growing your own is also a useful skill to learn and it’s always exciting to eat something you’ve grown yourself.

You don’t need loads of space either; tomatoes, strawberries and peas can be grown in a container the size of a window box, or why not plant a fruit tree or two in a sunny spot?

Take a look at our Roots & Shoots at Home activity for a guide on using empty toilet roll inners as plantable plant pots so you can grown plants up from seed.

Looking for more inspiration?

Why not take a look at the posts our Roots & Shoots groups add to the Mission Updates page on the website – there’s plenty of inspiration to be found there! And of course we love to celebrate your achievements so don’t forget to add yours too.

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