Case Studies

Pond Week and Enterprise Through Collaboration

Pond Week and Enterprise Through Collaboration

Tealing Primary School

Key Facts

This project was a week of outdoor learning, encapsulating the efforts and interests of the children in developing their school grounds over the past year. All school staff helped to plan, with the children, what the intended outcomes were and what would need to be accomplished to meet those outcomes. Pond Week involved every child in the school, from nursery to primary 7.

The main focus of the project was to create a pond within the school grounds. The children had asked for a pond for a number of reasons including: to increase biodiversity by creating a new habitat for a range of animals, to make better use of a space within the grounds that was under-utilised, to create a learning resource where children can develop skills in enquiry, critical thinking and reflection outdoors and to demonstrate the sense of pride they feel in their school and grounds by developing them, making them attractive to look at and inviting to others. The project in its wider sense sought to embed principles of learning for sustainability, combining other aspects of the school's work in recycling, promoting eco-friendly habits, reducing carbon emissions and working with the community to share and develop expertise, knowledge and understanding.

Outdoor learning was an important aspect of this project as the children have a keen interest in the natural world. Through engaging with this project, children were able to experience new challenges and opportunities whilst working with different pupils, from a range of ages and stages, and adults from the school, community and local businesses.

Literacy and numeracy were also integral to this project. Pond Week provided an excellent opportunity for children to develop and apply skills through measurement, information handling, problem solving and finance. Through literacy, children could develop and refine communication skills with a range of others; learning to follow instructions, providing instructions to others and asking questions for clarification.

Learning about living things, habitats and the interconnectedness of organisms within ecosystems through science and contributing their time and talents to change and develop their school provides opportunities for children to experience learning in science and health and wellbeing, enabling them to develop as Global Citizens.

We have recently revised the school's vision, working with children, families, staff and the wider community to develop a shared understanding and common goals. To that end, the vision statement that was decided upon is: 'We work together as a community to achieve excellence'.

This project, its objectives and opportunities for partnership working and family learning, embraced that vision. Demonstrating our collective responsibility to learn about and care for the environment, working together to achieve more.

How the Project Developed

Early Stages

This project was a week of outdoor learning, encapsulating the efforts and interests of the children in developing their school grounds over the past year. All school staff helped to plan, with the children, what the intended outcomes were and what would need to be accomplished to meet those outcomes. Pond Week involved every child in the school, from nursery to primary 7.

Gardening Activities

The children were already involved in outdoor activities every Friday, with a focus on small gardening projects, creating spaces for wildlife such as butterfly homes, hedgehog shelters and bat boxes etc. but we recognised that there was a real interest in being outside, learning skills outdoors and planting a range of plants including fruit and vegetables.



The children had expressed an interest in creating more spaces to encourage a wider range of wildlife to make Tealing Primary School their home. They began by planting wildflower seeds across areas of our grounds where little else was growing, in order to provide habitat and food for insects and other small creatures. They continued to build on this by planting 150 new trees and shrubs across the grounds, providing future habitats for a much wider range of animals.

All this work and the sense of achievement they felt helped develop incredibly positive attitudes towards recognising opportunities, seeking challenges, finding possible solutions and implementation change. The children then turned their attention to one specific area of our grounds to which they had no real access as it was unused, unmaintained and uninviting.



The Pond

In order to provide habitats to an even wider range of animals, including aquatic species, the children decided they wanted to build a pond. They asked, through the Pupil Council and Eco-Committee, if this might be possible and demonstrated its potential through creating posters and labelled drawings of what it might look like and what it may attract.

The children, and staff, dedicated Friday afternoons to planning and working on the 'pond site'. This involved children determining risks and seeking ways to minimise them as well as planning what would be needed, from whom and when.

They soon realised that we could not do this alone therefore parents, partners and community members were invited to help. Working with the children, volunteers demonstrated practical skills; enabling children to learn through a range of exciting experiences.



In order to obtain materials and resources, children employed their skills in persuasion, budgeting and negotiation to ensure they were getting the best possible deal at every turn. Working in this way, the pond area was developed over 4 days during Pond Week. Children and partners continued working outdoors, in every weather, determined to achieve their goals and complete the project. Alongside the pond, Pond Week also saw children build planters, make their own 'fat-ball' recipes and survey bird numbers to gauge impact of their work, replace and repair benches as well as painting to preserve wooden structures and so much more.

What did pupils gain from taking part? How effective was the project?

Impact

This project has enabled children to realise their influence and impact in bringing about change on issues that they feel are important. Children are more aware of their role in sustainability and the impact of their choices in this. In utilising their skills and talents, children have contributed effectively to the development of a new learning resource. They have demonstrated their responsible attitudes through their commitment to improving and caring for the environment and working with others as they did has shown them to be confident individuals. Developing and refining skills and applying learning in real and unfamiliar contexts has provided opportunities for children to recognise that they are successful learners too.

Community relationships have been increased and strengthened as a result of this project. Pupils have realised the potential that working collaboratively offers and they have been able to recognise the significance and impact that they have in school and beyond, with many applying this new learning at home and sharing what they now know with families.

This has been an incredibly effective project that has impacted positively on our entire community. There is a refreshed commitment to working together and children are motivated by their achievements in driving forward improvements that they can utilise and enjoy.

Outcome

As a direct result of this project, the children now have a fantastic new pond in the school grounds as well as a number of new spaces and resources where they can plant a wide range of plants to both support wildlife and to grow more of their own fruit and vegetables. This again links to children's desire to be more sustainable by reducing food miles, especially as these areas grow and we can provide fruit and vegetables to children and families in our community.



The pond has provided a resource where they can measure the impact of their work, monitoring increase in wildlife populations within and around the pond from installation onwards. This will help them to further develop numeracy and science skills outdoors whilst enabling them to realise their own potential with regards to impact on the environment. In suggesting and driving forward the improvement of their grounds, the children have also demonstrated how their contributions have made the school environment a more enjoyable place to be, in line with the themes of 'How Good is OUR School?'.

Children have gained experience working in a range of teams for a range of purposes. They have applied classroom learning in real-life contexts, had opportunities to assess and manage risk and to solve problems. This project has helped shape our curriculum focus to provide experiences that offer key entitlements of the Career Education Standards, "through which (pupils) learn about the world of work and job possibilities and which makes clear the strengths and skills needed to take advantage of these opportunities". Through many of the experiences offered to children during this project, there has been the opportunity to tackle gender inequalities and stereotypes. – Sustainable Development goal: 5

This project has also enabled increased working, and learning, across the community. At the end of Pond Week, we invited everyone to a Community Café in celebration of the tremendous effort and achievement of all. We intend to build on this by inviting community members, including those experiencing social isolation, to continue to work with children in the gardens. Assisting with planting, caring for and harvesting produce as well as being involved with children preparing and cooking what they have grown.

Is the project sustainable?

We believe this project to be highly sustainable. Now that the pond is established, it will be used by all classes as a learning resource. It will provide opportunities for exploration and investigation with children able to conduct pond-dipping and other sampling activities. There has already been a focus on writing across the school, with children describing their experiences throughout the project, explaining the purpose of the pond and sharing their thoughts and ideas for its use and future developments. We have also increased the number of partners with whom we have contact meaning there is greater scope for working together in the future. This would allow future generations of children to benefit from experiences in working with employers, developing skills for learning, life and work.

Pond Week has also inspired our children, staff and community to further develop the school with an increased focus on collaboration. We already have well-established initiatives in place that we can build upon and we intend to continue to explore ways of increasing biodiversity, learning together and developing greater enterprise through producing foods from home-grown products whilst developing greater inter-generational links within the community. All of this, we believe, will enable sustained positive relationships to enhance the learning of all within the school and community.

Throughout this project and as it moves forward into its next phase there will be a huge emphasis on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Through growing our own fruit and vegetables and having these available we can help to reduce hunger at least in our immediate community (2: Zero hunger).

The children in our school are increasingly in touch with nature and the world around them, they are demonstrating compassion for the environment which is beginning to show in their relationships with each other. Our children enjoy being outside and working together and there is no doubt that the impact of this on their mental wellbeing is immeasurable (3: Good health and wellbeing).

Did you incur any costs?

Parent Council

We have an incredibly pro-active and engaged Parent Council who are keen to support the work and ethos of the school. The largest expense was the pond liner. Our Eco-Committee wrote a letter to the Parent Council, outlining their plans for the pond and the potential benefits not only to their learning but to the environment too. Within their letter, the children included some researched examples of suitable liners with balanced arguments for cost versus quality. They sought to find the best possible deal and included these examples, with web-links, in their letter for the consideration of the Parent Council. The Eco-Committee was awarded a generous contribution for the full cost of the liner which meant that they could carry out the necessary preparations for the pond.

Eco-Committee

The committee oversees a lot of development across the school, working closely with our 'Learning for Sustainability' leader and P3/4/5 Class Teacher Mrs Sharpe. Together, they have embarked upon several gardening projects, tree planting activities, Eco-Schools Award and recycling activities resulting in them achieving several gardening awards through RHS (we are currently awaiting the result of our 5 star gardening award – the highest accolade available to us. We have also been awarded Bronze in the green tree school awards programme through the Woodland Trust) and achieving Green Flag status. As part of their recycling work, they are involved in a number of schemes that, as well as encouraging recycling within the school and wider community, generate income for the committee. These include recycling pens and crisp packets through 'TerraCycle' and textiles through 'Rag Bag'. Each of these provides opportunities for us to reinforce the importance of recycling to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment whilst also enabling children to measure their impact physically, in terms of mass of recycled products, and in terms of revenue gained. Again, this is done with a focus on the sustainable development goals – Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. This money is used by the committee to support the sustainability projects of the school, including projects such as Pond Week.

One of our partners, Ecoanolytes, provides the Eco-Committee with a product and re-fill station for their Dew Products; environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaning products which use refillable bottles. Eco-Committee members assist in the processing of purchases during Community Café and receive a commission that they use to support their work in school. The children are passionate about the products as it allows them to pass on their message of sustainability to the wider community and further feel that they are positively impacting upon the environment (Sustainable development goal 12: Responsible consumption and production)

Local Companies

To assist with the wider work of the project, we were supported by several local companies and partners. Wickes Dundee supported the project by providing a range of resources, including wood, tools and paint for the activities undertaken during the project. A team of staff from Wickes also worked with the children for a day, teaching them about wood preparation, woodwork and using tools safely.

Plants and gravel were provided free of charge or discounted by Dobbies Garden Centre Monifieth and the Speckled Hen Nursery, a local company within the school community.

Other Partners

Staff from the University of Dundee provided bird table kits, science materials and staff to assist the children during the project. Children were able to follow instructions to build new bird tables, providing food to encourage a greater number of birds to visit our grounds. The science resources will be used to furnish our STEM Shed, an outdoor classroom that children have transformed into a science laboratory, with tools and equipment to enhance learning experiences through science and outdoor exploration.

We were supported by a number of our families throughout this project. From working with children, sharing skills to help build fencing, gates and planters as well as providing materials such as sand, patio slabs and plants. Parents and grandparents provided gardening advice and worked with children to create an attractive, habitable rockery around the pond.

All this support was invaluable and enabled the school to offer a wealth of engaging, challenging and enjoyable learning experiences at a very low cost. Moreover, children have been able to learn about finance through authentic experiences; seeking offers and considering available budgets as well as seeking support through creating persuasive texts.

Did you get other organisations/partners involved?

Wider Partnership Working

In addition to the partners already mentioned, children's learning and application of skills in measurement and construction was further enhanced through working with Dundee and Angus Wood Recycling. This company provided the children with recycled wood, tools and materials to build their own box planters that they could use to plant a variety of flowers identified as being attractive to a range of insect species. This was a challenging activity, requiring children to work cooperatively to construct their planters; meeting angles accurately and ensuring accurate measurement to build a strong, stable structure. Strathmartine Hospice also provided the school with more planters and animal boxes to further increase the biodiversity in the school grounds.



Do you have any advice for practitioners thinking about organising something similar?

We would encourage anyone considering developing their grounds through creating habitats such as a pond to do so. This provides an exciting and authentic learning opportunity not only in its development but afterwards also.

We would advise that you seek willing, skilled partners to assist with a project such as this as children would benefit from working in smaller, focused groups with the ability to engage in the wide range of experiences made available. Also consider how any necessary funding can be managed through pupil contributions and using methods that complement the ethos of sustainability. Our experience was that this provided the children with greater ownership of the project and allowed them to realise their impact upon the school and environment.

Other information

As a school, we value our community and we are keen to strengthen the positive relationships we have with the people around us. Children can develop a range of skills through other activities in collaboration with our community members. These include entrepreneurial skills such as seeking improvements, raising funds and building good working relationships.

During Community Café, children have opportunities to share their learning with people out with the school. Cafés also provide a platform for children to engage with the wider community and to collaborate, sharing ideas and seeking support in projects. Celebrating achievements at these events also strengthens our ethos and vision with everyone recognising the impact that they have in the collective work of the school.

During each Community Café, a small group of children offer refreshments whilst promoting some of the school's other projects. These include our many recycling initiatives to which community members contribute very effectively, bringing along recyclable materials and spreading the message more widely beyond the school. Children also seek financial contributions to support their efforts including through sales of products such as Dew.



Community Café is also an opportunity for children to encourage the use of their 'Pop-Up Swap Shop'. This initiative was developed by the Eco-Committee as a means of re-using unwanted clothing, especially school-branded items which cannot be recycled with other textiles. Children encourage community members to take what they need from the stall and to donate old items for use by others. It is a sustainable, financially beneficial and eco-friendly project which again highlights the children's very effective contributions to the life and work of the school.



Contact details

Mr Michael Smith
Tealing Primary School
School Road
Tealing
DD4 0SZ

01382 768133
tealing@angusschools.org.uk

Links

https://www.eco-schools.org.uk/
https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/HGIOURS-Part2.pdf
https://learningforsustainabilityscotland.org/about-us/
https://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/sustainable-development-education/eco-schools/green-flag-award/ten-topics/global-citizenship/https://education.gov.scot/Documents/cfe-through-outdoor-learning.pdf
https://education.gov.scot/nih/Documents/dyw2-career-education-standard-0915.pdf
https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/enterprise-in-education
https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/school-gardening-awardshttps://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

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