Andy: Earlier this year we highlighted the amazing work at Wicor school, Portchester, Hampshire in the south of England in inspiring young people in the world of gardening and growing food crops. The work at Wicor goes far further than that.
Children learn about wildlife and the importance of natural habitats and conservation. I asked Louise Bryant, one of the team responsible to tell us a little about the work they have been doing and how it has been recognised by important organisations
Louise Bryant: Wildlife at Wicor
Our beautifully landscaped grounds are a haven for wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Individually created areas have become habitats providing essential food, shelter and a place to reproduce.
As a whole, our tree lined site gives the impression of woodland, bordering on to housing and unusually an undeveloped field which has a vista of the Portchester shoreline.
The field provides a wildlife corridor for many deer, badgers, foxes and hedgehogs who visit Wicor for food. During the autumn the Brent geese use this field as part of the path for their journey.
The children find animal activity fascinating. This might be traces of badgers that leave their latrines which demonstrate seed dispersal and a plentiful source of worms in our soil or the remains of a wood pigeon that has met an untimely end at the claws of a sparrow hawk on the playground.
The stumpery was developed as a learning area to encourage invertebrates, small mammals and amphibians. To our joy early this year children identified a stag beetle there with help from The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Our wildlife garden provides a great feeding station for a host of birds where seeds and berries are encouraged.
The pond is perhaps our most popular area to find wildlife. Children love to dip and identify what they have found, the learning is completely natural, fun and progressive with questions flowing.
Our pond is teeming with smooth and palmate newts; each year there is a quest to see how many we can find. Year 2 were delighted to observe long-bodied dragonfly nymphs emerge and find the cast of skin ‘eluvia’ floating in the pond later in the season.
As part of our environmental curriculum pupils seek the wildlife, sketch, label details and observe through state of the art microscopes in our science centre.
As the summer heightens the grass and wildflower meadow in the orchard is alive with crickets and grasshoppers.
Lined with an edible hedgerow birds enjoy its safety and the sound of songbirds are most common here. The hedging and heritage fruit trees with under plantings of native spring bulbs provide a reliable early source of nectar and pollen for bees.
Our allotment provides a source of fresh fruit and vegetables for most of the year, providing not only a valuable resource for learning but food for cookery. The quality of our work was recognised by the WWF and we were awarded the national Green Ambassador Food Production Award 2014.
A group of pupils were privileged to work with the Royal Entomological Society at Highgrove and used traps to capture insects. Inspired by this experience and concerned that moths are among threatened native species we have created a new bed with a planting scheme to attract nocturnal wildlife.
A priceless sighting for our head teacher was the hummingbird hawk moth, drawn to the dense lavender hedge which edges our tropical garden.
Children learn about the importance of ‘pests’ in food chains as well as their destructiveness in the garden. Violet ground beetles can often be found in our polytunnels and help demolish plenty of slugs and snails, although woodlice are the main problem for nibbling tomatoes.
As a general rule most children love bug hunting however it presents itself, lifting logs, using magnifying glasses, match boxes or just bare hands to investigate.
Bright coloured red soldier beetles catch the eye with colour; the devil’s coach horse with pincers is enough to raise the eyebrows of all children, particularly when they learn about the beetle’s behaviour of omitting a putrid smell to drive away their enemies.
Find out more about the work of Wicor School at http://www.wicor.hants.sch.uk/
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Do tell us about working with wildlife at other schools. Here at MyGardenSchool we are passionate about gardening for wildlife.