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Going Wild Across the Curriculum in Oxfordshire

During the past four years in Oxfordshire, there has been a very strong focus on developing an understanding of environmental education for teachers and pupils of all ages. Innovative and exciting environmental projects have proved very popular, and some of these have become embedded in the curriculum, particularly at Key Stage 1 and 2.

The Oxfordshire Education Business Partnership (EBP) has been responsible for setting up and facilitating many environmental programmes, for both teachers and students, in conjunction with BBOWT, The Countryside Foundation, RHS Wisley, Hill End, and Jenny Steel, a local wildlife gardening expert.

Professional Placement Days

The EBP is able to contribute towards supply cover costs, enabling teachers to attend training days. ‘Inspiring, exciting, rewarding, fun and innovative.’ These were just some of the comments made by teachers after attending environmental training days. The most popular of these has been ‘Developing School Grounds for Wildlife’ giving teachers the chance to find out about constructing ponds, pond dipping, learning about plants that will attract wildlife, planting butterfly borders, finding out ways in which birds can be attracted to the garden, composting, willow weaving, making bat and bird boxes, minibeast habitats and health and safety issues.

The training days are always of a practical nature and teachers leave with, not only a large pack of resources and a bat or bird box that they have made, (some far more robust than others!) but more importantly refreshed and inspired to go and create a ‘little haven’ in their own school.

Based on these very successful training days, a free education resource pack for Key Stages 1 and 2 has been produced by the EBP. ‘Go Wild Across the Curriculum’ shows how wildlife-friendly school grounds can be used for every area of the National Curriculum in an innovative way, making learning in the ‘outside classroom’ fun and rewarding.

Student Activities

Throughout the year primary schools have been using the expertise of the EBP to assist them in running environment weeks.

The environment weeks always involve the whole school and are made up of practical activities such as pond dipping, willow weaving, bird watching and walking. Guest speakers are invited to come in and talk to the children and this has included presentations on Red Kites, Water Voles, Bees and Wasps, Badgers and Wildlife Crime. These are interactive, using some very interesting props!! The storyteller is always popular and provides a real basis for some wonderful creative writing, drama and artwork.

Some speakers have the added advantage of being able to bring in ‘the real thing!’ A boa constrictor, corn snake, eagle owl, barn owl, bats and hedgehogs, and even wolves are regular visitors to schools. All areas of the National Curriculum are covered during the week in a completely different way to normal, and the work produced by children is of the highest standard. Children also learn the concept of how our wildlife needs protecting and the steps they can take to help.

I do not have space here to highlight all the environmental projects that are being run countywide. However, the Forest Schools’ Early Years Programme, Sustainability projects, Eco-Schools Challenge, Rural Farm Initiative, Hill End activity and training days for staff and students, the Northmoor Trust programme and the activities offered at Oxford Botanic Gardens, all contribute to a wonderful learning programme.

The whole area of environmental education in Oxfordshire is exciting and vibrant. Through the hard work of teachers and with a developing programme of innovative and inspirational activities linked to the NC, we are helping to create a generation of children who are not only aware of their local surroundings, but enjoy learning about the outdoor environment.

Work is ongoing to enhance and improve existing programmes, as well as developing new initiatives with link agencies. We will continue to ensure that all environmental groups work together and that programmes offered to schools can be delivered as part of the national curriculum.

Lin Baldock
Oxfordshire Education Business Partnership