More than 8,000 school children pledged to save water and create space for wildlife following visits from Surrey Wildlife Trust to 35 schools in Surrey between October 2019 and March 2020. Funded by Affinity Water, the Trust created a programme for five to eleven year olds where children were asked to help an otter whose river is polluted and running low.
The joint initiative was to deepen environmental learning with school children. Surrey Wildlife Trust’s educational reserves, Bay Pond and Nower Wood, sow the seeds of nature based learning on school trips. But, it is only by repeat immersion at school, with practical work, wildlife gardening and lessons outdoors that environmental learning is consolidated.
Affinity Water’s education team was keen to get involved to help local school children understand that looking after the environment also helps protect all of our water sources.
Surrey Wildlife Trust visited schools in Guildford, Godstone, Dorking, Ewell and Surrey-wide schools that have visited Nower Wood or Bay Pond education reserves on school trips. Lizzie Foster, education officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, not only led the key primary school assemblies but also advised staff, school council and eco clubs on how to encourage wildlife to their school grounds and make the most of outdoor learning.
Lizzie said, ‘The best thing was seeing the excitement on the children’s faces when they remembered their school trip to our reserves. The children were so enthusiastic about the wildlife they saw and wanted to take care of it by looking after the environment, rivers and saving water. While some schools have lots of funding or time and others don’t, most schools felt they could improve their grounds for wildlife and outdoor learning. Now schools are closed families can also do this at home to continue their learning.’
There are small changes every school or home garden can make. Unused flower beds could grow pollen and nectar rich flowers for butterflies and bees. Herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and mint could create a sensory garden and provide a fabulous resource for science lessons outside.
Surrey Wildlife Trust also suggested creating bird, bat, bug and hedgehog houses in design and technology projects. Even creating a log pile and compost heap creates a variety of microhabitats for insects, bugs and small mammals.
Managing abandoned ponds or creating new ones, like small bucket ponds, can provide food, water and shelter for a diverse range of creatures and they are fascinating habitat to observe wildlife. Water butts are also a valuable resource for topping up ponds and harvesting rainwater for watering vegetable plots and flower beds.
Affinity Water was keen to raise awareness of water use, what happens if it is taken for granted and the problems that arise from increased demand for water. Children were shown simple steps to save water and help improve water quality in their local rivers.
Hannah Battram, education services manager at Affinity Water, said: ‘It’s been fantastic to work with Surrey Wildlife Trust and help empower local children to protect their environment. There are so many simple things that we can all do, from putting our rubbish in the bin, turning the taps off when we brush our teeth and taking shorter showers to making the areas around us more wildlife friendly. It’s been great to see the children leading the way with the environmental pledges and changes they have been making.’
Wildlife gardening advice from Surrey Wildlife Trust