There’s a robin at The Canons CE Primary School in Bedworth, who is keeping a beady eye on a locked-away ‘secret garden’ for us.
He would hop around enthusiastically during visits by education officers Naomi, Katie and Jess, who worked hard to prepare the site in the Spring term, ready for it to be transformed with pupils over Summer into an ‘outdoor classroom’.
We had some grand plans before the Coronavirus lockdown called a temporary halt to this project - and so did the children! Having previously delivered after-school nature clubs at The Canons as part of our Wild About Learning programme for children and young people, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the aim was – and still is – to create a lasting legacy.
The school already had a fenced-off forest school area and had tidied it ready for some new ideas. So, when they received our email inviting them to create an outdoor classroom with us, it was great timing!
This serendipity provided a great start to the project and pupils – inspired by an assembly led by education team manager Vicky – sent us some wonderful ideas for what they wanted to see on the site to create both habitats wildlife and a place in which they could learn all about it.
The education team spent three ‘grown-up only’ days at the school to get the project started. Log seats were delivered by our Dunsmore Woodlands and Brandon Marsh Officer, Nick Feledziak, from land management at Bubbenhall Wood. Nettles were pulled, old bug hotels dismantled ready for renovations and debris removed from the pond. A tree surgeon cut back a horse chestnut tree to allow in more light.
During this work it became apparent just how much wildlife had made this small pocket in the school grounds its home. There were frogs in the pond, toads coming out of hibernation, a myriad of spiders and minibeasts, and plenty of birds to spot, including long tailed tits and goldfinches.
We were lucky enough to be able to hold a half day of sessions with pupils in the final week before lockdown. Year 5 came out to help with litter picking and moving cuttings to compost heaps from our earlier efforts to tame overgrown shrubs before the nesting season.
Their energy and excitement at seeing even snails along the way brought the whole project to life for one magical morning. It also reminded the whole team of the reasons we are all so committed to sharing environmental education. Now, more than ever, it is essential to inspire the next generation of conservationists.
Although we are currently unable to visit The Canons, we hope the pupils we have worked with so far will be enjoying the wonders of nature to be found on their doorstep. Waiting for them at school will be the huge variety of wildlife and learning to be found in their ‘outdoor classroom’ when we are finally able to return.
It will be overgrown again with nettles but our friendly robin, who showed such great interest in our activities, will still be there, and the enthusiasm of pupils will make the continued restoration of the site lots of fun, perhaps more so than ever when we are all finally able to meet again. The entire education team is currently furloughed – but we will be back!