February 2016  |  January 2016  |  December 2015 | November 2015

Latest News from CLS Eco-Schools...

May 2016

Introducing Dorset's newest Green Flag Eco-Schools!

Congratulations to staff and pupils at these schools for getting their Green Flag awards this term:

Bridport Primary School

The Prince of Wales School

Dorchester Middle School

Damers First School

Frome Valley First School

Bridport Primary School are excited about their new solar panels.  Read more...

Read the April 2016 e-newsletter

Eco-Schools Celebration Day

March 2016

On 22 March 100 enthusiastic, excited and energetic young people from 10 different schools on Cerne Abbas for our Eco-Schools Celebration.

All the schools had recently applied for Eco-Schools Green Flag awards and had gathered to celebrate their achievements after 2 years of dedicated work.

The children learned about each other’s work, made new friends, competed for the lowest-waste lunch and took part in some amazing workshops.  Read all about it here……

Deep Thinking with P4C facilitator Alison Allsopp

Should we even care about saving the environment? In this thoughtful session children asked some serious questions probing their values, rights and responsibilities towards the environment.   The children used collaborative dialogue to discuss and develop their ideas.  The photo shows some of the ‘big’ questions the children came up with – they didn’t hold back! 

Talking Rubbish with the Carymoor Environmental Trust

Outside on the grass, this session reminded us about the problems caused by our throwaway society, especially our use of plastic.  The giant Waste Free Lunch broke the ice, then the Gigantic Journeys trail reminded us that because many creatures migrate around the planet, waste disposal is a global problem.

Julia surprised us all with her bag of recycled objects from other countries……like this plastic bag chicken from South America!  It was interesting to learn about the lives of the people that made them. 

You Owl What You Eat  with the Dorset Countryside Rangers

This fascinating workshop introduced children to owl ecology and some of the problems owls face in our modern world.  Doing owl food chain activities we were again reminded about the interdependence of all life.

The highlight was getting to dissect some owl pellets and find out what Dorset’s owls have been feeding on.  Shrews seemed to be the most popular diet choice!  Some children were so enthralled that they took their skeletal finds home with them

 

 

Eco-Anthems with Martin Maudsley

By far the noisiest of the workshops, Martin’s interactive song writing workshop got everyone’s bodies and imaginations moving.  Brainstorming our ideas and using claves to tap out rhythms, we wrote our own verses about why it’s cool to be an Eco-School.   Here are some of our genius rhyming, alliterated and assonant ideas:

"Climate change changes children"

"Let the lights be lit a little less"

"Use more bicycles and more recyclables"

Waste Free Lunch

The added challenge of the day was the Waste Free Lunch competition.  Items of lunch waste were scored depending on their impact on the environment;

  • Compostable waste: 0 points
  • Re-usable containers: 0 points
  • Recyclable waste: 1 point
  • Non-recyclable waste: 2 points.

Teams were aiming to get their average score as close to 0 as possible.  It’s harder than it sounds – think of the yogurt pots, biscuit wrappers and sandwich bags we use every day.

Well done to our winners, Bridport Primary School!  Their secret?  Home-made cakes and a 42 year-old lunch box!

What was the point?

We had fun, we made friends and we learned a lot.....but more importantly, we got inspired and re-energised fo keep working towards even more sustainable schools in the terms and years ahead. 

Thank you to our brilliant workshop leaders and all the schools that took part:

Beaminster School  •  Bridport Primary School  •  Broadmanyne First School  •  Damers First School  •  Dorchester Middle School  •  Frome Valley First School  •  Southill Primary School  •  St Mary's Catholic First School  •  St Mary's CEVA Primary School

As Martin’s final story reminded us.....

WE DO WHAT WE CAN.  When we all do what we can together, we can achieve A LOT!

 

Going Green!

February 2016

We are delighted to announce that 8 schools in the CLS Eco-Schools network have applied for their Eco-Schools Green Flag awards!

What does it mean?

The Eco-Schools Green Flag is an internationally recognised award signifying a schools strong practical commitment to making sustainable improvements and encouraging environmental learning.   Green Flag schools can be found in 58 countries around the world from Kenya to Australia and Portugal to Kazakhstan. Find out more about Eco-Schools Globally.

Wherever they are, children in Green Flag schools engage in a process of environmental auditing, action and evaluation to identify and enact improvements.  At the same time teachers ensure environmental responsibility is part of curriculum learning and schools actively finds ways to share their environmental example with their wider communities. Find out more about the Eco-Schools framework.

What does this look like in Dorset?

Well.....since the CLS Eco-Schools programme kicked off in September 2014, 195 children aged 5 to 15 in 11 schools have been active Eco-Team members.  Each Eco-Team did an Environmental Review – auditing the whole school environment and paying special attention to energy use.   They then had to decide on tasks they could do to make the school more sustainable and create a plan of action. 

Here are just a few of the many activities Eco-Teams have been involved in over the past 18 months:

Grow, grow, grow!  - Plants and polytunnels popped up at St Mary's Catholic First School

•  Eco-Week  - a whole week of recycling and growing-themed activities at Prince of Wales First School

•  Intercontinental connections - Eco-Teams at Southill Primary and Frome Valley First school helped schools in Kenya set up their own environmental clubs

•  Green Procurement - all schools had to consider the sustainability of the things they buy, and as always the children got involved (image, left)

•  Climate change awareness - Dorchester Middle School students campaigned around school to raise awareness of the effects of climate change

•  Recycling wrappers - after successfully reducing classroom waste, children Damers First School have launched a recycling project, collecting pens and biscuit wrappers from the community

•  Composting like crazy - St Mary's in Bridport set up a fantastic composting system to feed the beds in their Edible Garden

•  Energy busters - zapping, splatting, marking plugs and switches and rewarding every-savers....all schools have made sure everyone helps to save energy, money and carbon in school.

Inspired by their fantastic teachers, a growing army of young people in West Dorset tare learning about environmental issues and learning how to be the environmental leaders of tomorrw.   We've seen how when the whole school gets involved, the small actions initiated by Eco-Teams can add up to have a huge effect! 

Eco-Celebration Day

January 2016

On 22nd March we'll be celebrating the fantastic work of all the children and teachers that were part of the CLS Eco-Schools network at a special Eco-Day.  The day includes fun workshops, a waste-free lunch competition and a chance for pupils to share their ideas with peers from other schools. 

And of course we'll be offering inspiration and encouragement to help these amazing young leaders keep working towards even greener schools and communities!

Volunteers step up to support greener schools

December 2015

What makes a school a Green Flag school?  How can we check what was learned along the way? What motivates a school to become an Eco-School?  These and many other questions were tackled at the recent Green Flag assessors training day, run by Eco-Schools England for volunteers in Dorset.

Many of the volunteers were members of local organisations, including the Transition Town groups and DA21, and some took time out from jobs in environmental management and education to attend the training course.   We were especially delighted that two delegates came over from Devon to join us. 

Eco-Schools crash course

Over the course of a thoroughly enjoyable day, volunteers learned the different steps in the Eco-Schools process (Eco-Team, Environmental Review, Action Plan, Linking to the Curriculum, Monitor and Evaluate, Inform and Involve, Eco-Code)and how schools go about implementing them.  We learned what to look for and how to ask the right questions of children to find out how the've been involved and what they've learned.

Encouraging values

Perhaps most interesting was considering what skills and values children practise by taking part in an Eco-Schools programme.  Along with key skills like planning, communication and teamwork, the group felt that participating in Eco-Schools work would help children develop critical thinking skills and a sense of agency and empowerment.....now we were talking!  Is it possible to tell in a 2 hour assessment whether children have really developed these skills?  Again, we learned our job is to be encouraging and find ways to ask children questions that will get them talking and show what they understand.

Of course as Assessors we reinforce these values when we go into schools, so we wrote our own Assessors' codes to remind us of these important skills.

Importance of volunteers

Volunteers play a key role in the process of Green Flag applications.  Before being awarded a Green Flag, applicant schools receive a visit from a trained volunteer assessor who/userfiles/images/Assessors%20Eco-Code.jpg meets the children involved and checks the school has fully met the stringent criteria.  Due to a shortage of assessors in the South West, many schools have had to wait months for this assessment to take place. 

Hopefully now, with nine new assessors raring to go, schools will be able have quick assessments and keep the momentum for their next green achievements!

Thank you to all the volunteers who attended and to Anna Portch of Eco-Schools England for making the day so enjoyable.

If you are interested in Green Flag assessing or would like to find out more about the international Eco-Schools programme, please contact the Eco-Schools Officer a.m.jay@dorsetcc.gov.uk or 01305 224789

Taking Learning Outdoors

November 2015

November's training workshop Adventures in Outdoor Learning, led by Mary Jackson of Play Learning Life was a real treat.  10 teachers from 9 different schools in Dorset enjoyed an practical and creative afternoon that really stirred the imagination in the beautiful grounds of the Prince of Wales School. 

The rain didn't let up, but despite the downpour we catapulted real-life(sort of)  angry birds, lit fires, practised arithmetic on the hop, created 3D art work and even managed to light fires (a bit of dry cotton wool and some elbow grease was all it took).  

Just good fun?
It all sounds like a jolly, but there are serious reasons for taking learning outdoors.  Of course any kind of outdoor experience gives children the chance to encounter and value the natural environment.  Concerned as we are with the environment and sustainability at CLS, this is crucial as we know people are unlikely to take action for something they don't care for, and unlikely to care for what they haven't experienced. 

But there's a lot more to it than that.  As we found out, taking learning outdoors can have a whole host of other positive effects for children and teachers.  A sense of freedom, opportunities for more exciting and bigger-scale activities, improving behaviour and getting children away from computer screens were all mentioned.

Mary introduced us to another reason to embrace outdoor learning: properly planned, it can help to raise attainment.  Citing evidence from the Education Endowment Fund, Mary demonstrated that writing projects based on memorable experiences such as trips and encounters with nature can advance chilren's writing skills (read report)

The 2008 Ofsted report 'Learning Outside the Classroom - How Far Should You Go?' found overwhelming evidence that learning outside the classroom con contribute significantly to raising standards and the quality and depth of learning.

The key to making outdoor learning effective is having an integrated curriculum approach - making sure there are clear learning objectives as you would when teaching in the classroom.

Managing risk

The perceived increased risk to children from working outdoors or off-site often restricts our freedom to take children outdoors.   Mary advocated a 'risk-benefit' approach to managing these risks, in line with recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive.   This approach allows children to develop responsibility and resilience through experiencing managed risks  Read Learning Through Landscapes guidance on the risk-benefit approach

Ideas

So what did we get up to?  Mary was full of ideas.  A selectaion of taster activities covered just about every curriculum subject.  We made natural art in simple cardboard box 'frames' (photo, right), we cooked delicious desserts in a fire wok, did a maths race and of course used our 'angry birds' catapault to practise estimating and measuring (photo, above). 

All the participants were encouraged by the compelling evidence for learning outdoors and hopefully went back to school with some fresh ideas for using the school grounds in curriculum.

A big thank you to Prince of Wales School for hosting the session and Mary Jackson for a totally inspiring afternoon.  We proved that it can also be fun and memorable whatever the weather!

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