When I think back to June and July of this year I can’t help but have that well known Proclaimers song ‘Gonna Be’ in my head as it really did feel like I walked 500 miles (well 3,100 miles actually even if 1,000 of those were in a virtual sense!) visiting some amazing Green Ambassador schools up and down the UK to present them with their awards. Ok, so I took a lot of trains – but there was a lot of walking too!
Apart from my tired feet, it’s certainly with a humungous sense of pride as I look back on my whirlwind tour of eleven schools all doing incredible things to support sustainability and environmental issues.
As part of WWF’s Green Ambassadors scheme it’s my job to work on our Green Ambassador Awards and I feel hugely privileged to be a part of this! During my visits I have had the chance to ask teachers and head teachers about how they find the time to fit in Green Ambassadors within the school hours and curriculum. Every school has had a completely different approach in bringing environmental studies into the classroom and linking it to the curriculum – and of course it isn’t an easy challenge.
Ysgol San Soir (a small school in Llandudno) has beehives located within their school grounds. The pupils and teachers have not only been learning on the job, as they have no previous experience of beekeeping, but they have found a way to weave in elements of the natural world into their maths lessons! The pupils at Ysgol San Sior have been looking at the shape of the honey combe hexagon, why this shape is beneficial to collect honey, and working out how much honey you can collect from this shape compared to other shapes.
Eleanor Walker and her green team at Victoria Park Primary School, Bedminster have been busy creating beautiful flyers as part of a campaign against traffic issues right outside their school and used the growing debate about road traffic during a persuasive writing lesson.
Pupils at Monymusk School had been looking at encouraging other children to learn how to ride a bike during the Big Pedal which helps pupils learn bike road safety but also how this helps people to reduce their travel footprint on the planet.
All of these examples showcased perfectly how schools are really thinking ‘outside the box’ when it comes to teaching pupils how to think about protecting our planet whilst learning all the standard areas of the curriculum.
It has been brilliant to meet such amazing, passionate and of course inspiring teachers and pupils and see first-hand how they are achieving great things in their school with very little time and budget. I think back to my school days and we never did anything like what the pupils are doing today. I never learnt how to grow a vegetable! My grandad, dad and my nieces all know how to plant, sow and grow but it seemed to skip my generation. I’m so inspired that today’s generation are learning more and more about our natural world!
Massive congratulations to all of our winners and runners up and look out for 2018 awards and enter your school!
Find out more about Green Ambassadors.
The Green Ambassador Awards Tour
Wednesday 21 June and Thursday 22 June
My first school presentations took me to Scotland to present two schools with their awards. These two schools were totally different – George Heriot School in Edinburgh, sat in the heart of the city with a junior school of 620 pupils and Monymusk School sat in a quaint village hosting 60 pupils – both schools doing great things in taking action for our planet. During the visit our Green Ambassador Awards sponsor (People’s Postcode Lottery) joined me to film at the schools.
Friday 23 June
My next presentations were to two Northern Ireland schools, via Skype. Carrowreagh Primary School, Ballymoney had created solar powered bird nesting box cameras that had enabled them to bring technology back into the classroom. St Patrick’s Primary School, Moneymore has developed their outdoor area by planting more native trees along the boundary, whilst learning about Fairtrade and looking at how food impacts the planet – they even held a fair trade tea party which I was very sorry to miss as I love a good brew!
Monday 3 July
I then headed off on my second week of travels to visit Pollyplatt Primary School, Scampton. Their green team had been doing some great things and had been very created with a set of old tyres to create a ‘minion’ statue with lots of wild plants for hair!
Tuesday 4 July
The teacher award winner was Sylvia Milner from Middleton-on-the-Wolds Primary School, Driffield. Sylvia is affectionately known to her pupils as their ‘Earth Mother’ due to her enthusiasm for the environment. Each year group had their own garden plot and the green ambassador team planted their own area of flowers and vegetables.
Wednesday 5 July
The other teacher award had me travelling back down south to Maidenhead where I met another unsung hero called Jenny McQuillan from St Edmunds Campion Catholic Primary School who has been running the Green Ambassadors team for 12 years! We loved the welly ‘dogs’ that greeted us at the front door of the school…a great use of upcycling old wellies! They showed us around their school with their pupils eager to inform us of their learnings from litter picking to looking at water issues.
Thursday 6 July
My next school was Victoria Park Primary School, Bedminster to present them with not one but two prizes. This Green Ambassador team is outstanding, their knowledge and depth of understanding environmental issues blew us away. With too many great examples to choose from – one activity that stood out to me was their amazing ‘shoe swap’ days and school clothing collection which saved 172kg of clothes from landfill!
Monday 10 July
Next on my tour was Warren Road Primary School, Orpington. Now I needed to persuade the excited key stage 1 pupils to keep the announcement a secret from key stage 2 during break time…thankfully they sailed through this tough challenge! I was delighted to award this school as I found out the teacher Mrs Millband was retiring…what a way to finish the school year!
Tuesday 11 July
My final two visits led me to North Wales and a trip through the beautiful Snowdonia! Ysgol Gynradd Abererch, Pwllheli encourages everyone in their school to be more sustainable and green and they work with the community and the local police trying to reduce traffic in the village surrounding the school, now parents, pupils and even teachers cycle or walk to and from school.
Wednesday 12 July
The final school was Ysgol San Sior, Llandudno. I met Ian Jones the head teacher who I can honestly say is the most down to earth and relaxed head teacher I have ever met. During our quick chat over a cuppa before the presentation a pupil knocked on the door and passed a message on to say that the bees from their hive were SWARMING! Ian told us that they were swarming because they either had two queens or the queen had moved. Ian casually mentioned that this happens a lot and no school days are ever the same with bees swarming and chickens escaping but as with all issues the pupils learn to deal with these things in a cool, calm responsible manner. The school are very business focused and look at ways they can reduce costs and bring money into the school for example selling their honey and creating chutneys and jams from their veg plot!