#GrowWildStories: School's Out(side)

Forest School Green Roof

How one Kent primary school used Grow Wild seeds to develop an outdoor curriculum and expand learning opportunities.

Teacher and Forest School Leader, Paul, talked to us about his work and how he has used a Grow Wild wildflower seed kit to help develop his pupils’ relationship with the outdoors.

“Over lockdown, I was furloughed, so I had lots of time to think about activities for when the children returned to school. I’m a keen woodworker in my spare time, so I spent many a day building a bee hotel and hedgehog house to add to the wildflower area we’d recently created in the school playing field using our Grow Wild seed kit. Previously, this area was a bit overgrown, and there wasn’t much in the way of bee-friendly plants – so when we received the Grow Wild seeds we were able to create a more diverse habitat for the creatures in our playground.

“…when we received the Grow Wild seeds we were able to create a more diverse habitat for the creatures in our playground.”

The children loved it – when I brought the bee hotel into school this term, I was being chased by a bee as I carried the hotel to its new home - and they all thought that the bee was just desperate to move in! We’ve since been planning lots more development for that area. I’d like to start putting benches in, and possibly a plastic bottle greenhouse: things that mean we can really start using it not only to increase our biodiversity, but also as a curriculum resource. The idea is that children could sit there, do surveys, and learn in situ.

Sowing seeds on a green roof

We also have a Forest School area nearby, which is set in 1000 acres of country house estate. Over the last seven years, we’ve put a lot of effort into building infrastructure and implementing new ideas. However, this year, we decided that given the circumstances with the pandemic, we’d take a more child-led approach. We always give them free time, but there’s a real need for fewer prescribed activities at the moment because of what they've been through. The children have been away from their friends and have been under a lot of pressure. There are always a series of nature-based activities available, but at the moment, I’m just letting them do what they need to do.

Despite this, the children always want to learn. They still come and ask questions or want to go and see something that’s growing. It’s great to see them being led by their curiosity - they have the building blocks and the environment to investigate different topics for themselves.

I imagine the next wildlife project will be child-led: a child will usually come into school and say, “I've heard about this, I want to do that”. This year, for example, some of the children have been coming in demanding specific plants for the wildflower area, having researched them at home. A pupil in year four came into school one day saying “We need this particular plant because these particular butterflies like it, and it’s my favourite butterfly”. I'm also thinking of putting a wildlife camera in the wildflower area, which is being funded through “Learning through Landscapes”. We’re going to see which animals we can trace and learn about those.

We're also looking to do some outreach work with some of the more disadvantaged schools in the area, so they can also reap the benefits of engaging with nature. We have access to some lovely equipment and a brilliant area, so we want to share that with people who may not have access to the same things.

I'm a passionate believer in the benefits of Forest School and the outdoors. This whole area of work is having a wider impact than just learning about bugs - it's bringing the children a greater awareness of how it all ties together. I’m really pleased with how they’ve engaged in the projects so far and am looking forward to bringing them to as many children as possible.”

If you’d like to learn more about how to grow wildflowers to boost biodiversity and provide a learning tool for your school or project, please visit our website.