Costain and Network Rail recognised that education is an important part of sustainability, so the project team at London Bridge dedicated volunteers who spent an hour a week providing maths and reading support to students at the school who needed that extra help. This activity benefitted the students learning but also helped to break down the barrier between construction workers and the local community. Other additional STEM activities were undertaken by volunteers from the project at the school.
The project participated in a variety of the school’s curriculum campaigns such as Enterprise Week and Wildlife Week. For Enterprise Week, the winning year four class came to the project’s site canteen and sold their fruit salad franchise to operatives, raising money for maths supplies for the school. This encouraged the students to be confident, proactive and show off their impressive selling and entrepreneurial skills. During Wildlife Week, volunteers helped the students make bird feeders whilst educating the students on how to encourage wildlife into their gardens and school playground.
Revitalising urban biodiversity
One of the biggest projects undertaken with Snowsfields Primary was the refurbishment of their garden, where the project engaged with the students about nature and wildlife. Located in a heavily urbanised area of London, with minimal biodiversity, the garden was in desperate need of revitalisation to create a wildlife friendly area. With large areas of concrete and weeds taking the garden under their control, there was a lot of room for improvement!
Due to the urbanised location of the school, many of the students did not have gardens at home. Therefore, the project aimed to create an area for them to get outdoors and appreciate nature. The driving factor behind the project was to create a green space to educate the importance of urban biodiversity that the children helped create and would continue to nurture. The aim was to inspire the next generation’s passion for wildlife, encouraging them to look after the environment and understand the importance of urban green spaces. As the London Bridge Station Redevelopment did not impact biodiversity-rich areas, it aimed to create small enhancements to establish a net biodiversity gain in the local area that will have a continued positive impact on the environment.
The garden was created first by removing weeds and overgrown plants from the area and flattening the ground to provide a stable surface for a bug hotel. Planters donated from a local charity were then brought in and filled with soil. Later in the day, the children came out to plant sage, mint, mallow, broad beans and other plants, providing them with an opportunity they may otherwise not have had to try their hand at gardening.
The bug hotel was created using stacked recycled pallets. These were filled with bamboo, rocks, bricks, pine cones, twigs, dried leaves, polystyrene and other items donated from the gardens of the staff working on the project. The children helped complete the hotel and discussed what wildlife the different materials would attract.
A long-term, sustainable education project
The long-term management of the garden is to be undertaken by the school’s gardening club, therefore making the garden not only a beautiful place to visit, but a sustainable educational tool. The team of four science leaders were keen to be at the forefront of managing the garden and presented an assembly in front of their peers to share:
- The importance of looking after the garden
- What wildlife they can expect to find using the bug hotel
- The importance of urban green spaces, no matter how big.
Upon revisiting the site, a couple of weeks later, spiders, snails, bees and birds were using the hotel. It will keep improving biodiversity as the plants grow and the bug hotel becomes home to more wildlife. It also has the additional benefit of teaching the children about wildlife and showing what they can do to improve biodiversity at home, therefore creating a widespread positive environmental impact. As the students have been taught how to look after the garden themselves, the garden will continue to have a positive impact long into the future.
The learning that the children gain from this experience will help educate and inspire a new generation on the importance and beauty of urban biodiversity.
Recommendations for future projects
As all materials for both the garden and the bug hotel were donated and hours were volunteered from staff working on the project – it didn’t cost anything and is easily replicable. Because of this, other organisations would benefit from a project such as this that creates such a rewarding relationship with the local community.
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