Nature Friendly Schools
At Burlington Junior School, we believe that learning outdoors enhances the high quality education we provide to all pupils. Outdoor Learning compliments and extends the curriculum we provide in many subjects. It is also integral to the provision of our social and emotional support for many pupils in school.
In March 2020, our school joined the initial year of the Nature Friendly Schools scheme, which is funded by the Department for Education and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with support from Natural England. It aims to develop teachers’ confidence and ability to drive forward outdoor learning in schools, giving thousands of children from focus areas in England the opportunity to get closer to nature to benefit their learning, health and wellbeing, and care and concern for the environment. It also aims to fuel creativity and a sense of adventure, allowing pupils to experience the joy that nature can bring.
Throughout the school years of 2020-21, we have greatly developed our school grounds (including refurbishing the pond area; establishing a meadow; creating an outdoor classroom) and our outdoor learning provision, focussing on emotional and social welfare.
You can read and see more about the activities in the paragraphs and film below.
Each June, the Wildlife Trusts challenge the nation to complete a ‘Random Act of Wildness’ for each day of June, 30 acts in all. An Act of Wildness can be any act which engages with nature, including making a daisy chain, watching the clouds, listening to birdsong, making a work of art from leaves and making a bug hotel. Burlington Juniors took up the challenge, both in school and at home, to do a wild act each day. Activity signs were put up around the school
Emotional Literacy and Social Support
We provide opportunities for outdoor learning to all pupils in Burlington Junior School. We also provide additional opportunities for any pupils who require support to help them develop their emotional literacy, how they are able to express themselves, and to help develop their social skills where needed. Working with our pastoral team, pupils are able to work in groups or one to one if required to help them engage with their school environment. Many activities are planned and linked to the curriculum; some activities are spontaneous and respond to the needs to the pupils; all activities are also guided by the pupils and respond to their needs.
Mental Health Awareness Week
The 10th – 16th May 2021 was Mental Health Awareness Week, which focusses on what we can all do to look after ourselves. This year the theme was Nature and for us at Burlington Junior School it has been an ideal time for the children to explore all that our school grounds has to offer. The children completed a range of activities to interact with nature by making habitats and feeders, playing games, writing poems, doing maths, and creating artwork all using natural materials. They used their senses to recognise the signs of spring and paused to marvel at the natural world. Each pupil in the school wrote a short poem about how they felt in nature which made up the leaves of our ‘Poet-Tree’.
Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world. Even small contacts with nature can be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress. Many of us are not accessing or benefitting from nature, sometimes not through choice. Nature is not a luxury. It is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy, and we believe at Burlington Juniors that accessing nature is important to the whole development of the pupil.
At Burlington Junior School, we believe that learning outdoors enhances the high quality education we provide to all pupils. Outdoor Learning compliments and extends the curriculum we provide in many subjects. It is also integral to the provision of our social and emotional support for many pupils in school. We also enjoy playing games, playing outdoors and using the outdoors for our games. We are always adding to the variety of games we have to offer.
When the pupils at Burlington were asked about how they would like the school grounds to develop to help wildlife, a popular idea was to set up a meadow area. A patch of the playing field, sandwiched between the pond area and the Burlington Infants Outdoor Area, was identified as a safe area to protect and allow to develop into a meadow area. The idea is to leave it and let it grow wild this year, then manage it by introducing plant species in the autumn, which will grow next spring. A path was made and planted with donated daffodil and tulip bulbs; this path will be kept short all year for pupils to wander through and watch how the meadow grows and changes throughout the year.
Burlington Junior School has had a pond area for many years, which over time had become an overgrown wilderness. In 2017, the pond area was refurbished, with Tesco funding, with a new pond, seating, tables with identification pictures and raised beds. Though used, it had become unmaintained during 2020, due to few visits over the winter season; it was then closed during the first lockdown from March 2020 onwards. In June 2020, a Year 6 class of key worker children took on the task of clearing the pond area of weeds and maintaining the pond.
When they first arrived, it was like a scene from The Secret Garden: weeds had taken over parts of the garden; the hedges had overgrown; the pond was full of twigs, leaves and brown water (amazingly, frogs were found living there); the trees overhead kept part of the garden in permanent shadow. Over the next six weeks, the key worker pupils cleared the weeds, cleaned the pond of much of its debris, put in pond weed and pond insects, helped to cut the hedges and trees back and tidied the area for other groups to visit.
Over the past year the frogs have lived in a clean pond and many have been seen. A variety of wildlife have come to visit, as have all of the classes in school, and other schools. It has become one of our wildlife havens within school.
In addition to the pond and meadow areas, the Nature Friendly Schools project has helped to develop other parts of the school, including creating an outside classroom. Other organisations and initiatives, including Morrisons, RHS, B&Q, Bulb4Kids and Grow Your Own Potatoes have donated plants and equipment to help develop our outdoor areas.
Last Friday, we had a visit from Andy, our Nature Friendly Schools link, to help develop our meadow area and prepare it for next year. It had already been strimmed down and was waiting for the next phase, which was to scarify the ground to allow other plants and seeds to grow. This involved using rakes to pull up a lot of the grass and other plants on the meadow to create bare patches; this was to allow small planted native wildflower plants and seeds to have space to germinate and grow. This included a plant called ‘Yellow Rattle’ which helps to stop the grass from taking over again and allow the flowers to bloom. It was pouring with rain at times, but that didn’t hold back an army of our resilient volunteers to go out and work hard to help create a meadow which will become an amazing home for wildlife and colour next Spring and Summer. We can’t wait!