Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Over to you!

On Monday 14th May, we all headed to the school to hand over the meadow and present an assembly about our journey and what we have created. We are really proud of what we have produced and all of the children are very eager to start using it.

We decided that by doing an assembly in front of the whole school, it would be a good way to inform everybody about what we have been up to and to thank every one who has helped us along the way.

We also handed over a folder that we created to Mrs Buncle, the member of staff now responsible for the meadow. We put together all the relevant information about the project and the ongoing management, but we also organised a section where the children can record the wildlife they encounter as the meadow becomes established.

Thank you Southbourne Junior School, enjoy your meadow!


Natasha's reflection:
Creating the meadow was a fantastic and rewarding journey for the three of us to go on.  As well as benefiting the children by providing them with a wonderful learning and reflection space to support many areas of the curriculum, we learnt a great deal ourselves! Our team of three overall worked really well together. Although we all work quite differently, we played to each other’s strengths, took different roles in the project, and shared the workload to be most efficient.   

We were lucky have a considerable amount of freedom over the whole design of the project and spending of the budget, which allowed us to use our creativity, but with that also came huge responsibility. We had to ensure that we were organised, knowledgeable and communicated well amongst ourselves and with those involved in the project at school.

Through research and advice from experts we developed our knowledge so that we could carefully pick safe, native species suitable to the conditions of the site, whilst attracting and supporting a wide range of wildlife.  We gained experience in how to carry out risk assessments to ensure that everyone was kept safe while working on the project as well as sourcing the right tools and equipment for the tasks at hand. We learnt a lot about managing a budget and being resourceful where we could. Although £500 was a generous budget to be allocated, with the size of the site and our ambitious plans we knew that we were going to have to be creative to achieve everything. We made the decision to allocate the money to the plants and pathways and to source free and recycled materials for the benches and bug hotel.  This was in keeping with the theme of being environmentally conscious. When seeking donations, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of school community, organisations and members of the public!

Of course we encountered a few obstacles along the way, however, we worked together to solve the problems, remained resilient and adapted and refined our plans where necessary. Our biggest challenge was that we had underestimated the sheer size of the task to prepare the ground for the meadow seed, which meant that timescales were stretched.  This required hard work and determination from us and our group of helpers to get the seeds down before winter arrived!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the project and it has inspired me to take part in similar work in the future. It made me aware of the importance of projects such as this, providing habitats for wildlife, particularly as many are being lost to urban development, and allowing children to value and connect with their environment.

On reflection, and taking into account the amazing feedback from the school, the project has been a huge success and I feel that we have certainly ‘made change happen’!

Georgia's reflection:
While taking part in this project, there have been a lot of positives but some challenges. At the beginning, I found it difficult to envisage the end product due to having no knowledge of how many resources we could get within the budget, feeling like it was impossible to meet the requirements the school asked for, and whether we would end up with an end product in the short space of time we had to complete it. Nonetheless, as time went on this was made a lot easier thanks to meetings with the head teacher and PTA, gathering ideas from the pupils' themselves so that we were creating something that was going to be beneficial to them, and dedicating a specific time each week to commit to the creation of the meadow.

One of the things I found most challenging was deciding that we needed to completely renovate the ground and we had to do it all ourselves. I completely underestimated how many weeks this would take before we could go any further with the project. It was hard work, but with the help of the gardening club at the school, we eventually turned the soil ready to sow the seeds. We were all very determined though and set ourselves a time frame to get it done, so that we did not fall behind and had a substantial amount of the project completed before a set date.

A massive positive from the project was the amount of donations we received from the PTA, parents of children at the school, and local businesses. Without all these donations, our budget of £500 may not have covered the entirety of our resources, especially as we underestimated the amount of bark and wildflower seeds we would need. Also, gaining the extra help from other professions, such as carpenters, was extra beneficial and meant that we knew the benches were going to be made professionally, accurately and as safe as can be.

The group itself has been very committed to the creation of the meadow. We all had different interests and parts of the project that we focused on individually and I think if we did it any other way it would have been more challenging and could have created more disagreements throughout the process. All in all, we have had very few disagreements and possibly just added, improved or slightly altered one another's ideas.

Lizzie's reflection:
This 'Making Change Happen' project has been such a fun assignment to complete! From day one when we found out what our project was going to entail, it was clear that we were all excited about getting started, but also hugely apprehensive as nobody had any experience in gardening or landscaping. We knew that the project was going to be a lot of fun and also a lot of hard work.

One of the things that I found most challenging about this project was having to complete the bulk of it during the winter months. As the meadow was an outdoor task, we did not always have the weather on our side and having to do many hours of digging in the cold and rain was not very enjoyable. Luckily, we were all in it together and we were able to help and encourage each other to keep going. We were all quite worried during our school placements, because it was so snowy and cold and we thought that it would prevent our meadow from growing like we had hoped. However, luck was on our side and the grass and wildflower seeds survived and ended up growing really well.

We definitely couldn't have completed the project without the support of the school and the donations that we received. By not having to do any fundraising, it meant that we were able to make a start on the project early on, giving us lots of time for the meadow to grow. Also, having involvement with professionals enabled us to ensure that what we were creating was to a high standard and appropriate to the environment. Getting the children involved in the tasks we were doing was also really rewarding, because it allowed them to input their ideas and make the area somewhere that they felt excited about.

Working with Georgia and Natasha on this project has been brilliant. We have all worked hard as a team and been able to create a meadow that we are all really proud of. Even though there were times when we had disagreements over ideas, we were always able to resolve any problem, resulting in us completing the meadow to a standard that we are thrilled with!

Southbourne Junior School really have been a joy to work with and I really look forward to receiving updates from them and finding out how the meadow is doing and how the children have been using it. When handing over the project, it was clear how happy the school was with the meadow and it made all of the hard work worthwhile!

Monday, 14 May 2018

The final bench is in!

The meadow is finally complete!

On Thursday 10th May, Georgia went down to the school to help fit the tree bench in the meadow, along with two handy carpenters.

Over the past few weeks, a carpenter we had got in touch with had very kindly offered to make our tree bench as we were a little worried as to whether we would be able to do it ourselves. After building the bench, he sanded it and coated the bench in a treatment so the wood stays healthy in the outdoor environment, Not only did he make the bench, but all the materials were kindly donated. Thank you to Chichester College for supplying all the materials needed to build the bench.

When we arrived at the school with the bench, we realised that the ground around the tree was not level. Therefore, the carpenters spent a while cutting different legs of the bench, at different angles to make sure it was stable and safe enough for people to sit on. Eventually they made it look perfect.

We tested the bench several times with different bodyweights to make sure the bench was sturdy enough and that is was as safe as it could be, and we were very happy with the end product.

Thank you again to our two trusty carpenters, and to Chichester College for all your support.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Thanks from the Head Teacher

On Wednesday 9th May, we received a very kind email from the Head Teacher of Southbourne Junior School thanking us for work we have done on the meadow.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank your group so much for all of the effort you have put into this project and hope it is noted by your lecturers at the University. You have shown dedication and creativity and have produced a truly wonderful meadow/reflection area for the children. We have secured our silver Eco Schools award (the meadow being part of this) and are now looking towards our green flag. Thank you for 'making change happen!'.

Just so you are aware we had to move the wonderful wind chimes into the Year 3 garden area as the gentleman in the corner house could hear them all night. However, we thought they were so creative and our Eco-warriors are going to make some too and sell them to parents at the summer fair!

Thank you again and I hope the University are as impressed as we are!

Louise Gasser

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Finishing Touches

On Tuesday 1st May, we all returned to the meadow to see if the grass and flowers had finally started to grow and to add some finishing touches. We are so close to being finished now!

On arrival, we were so relieved and excited to finally see lots of green green, rather than mud! The grass and wildflower seed has actually started to grow. It was nice to finally see colour and a range of different wildflowers growing amongst the grass. All of the waiting was finally starting to pay off!

One idea that we had during the planning stage of the project was to create wind chimes to hang in the reflection area of the meadow. Recently, we have all been collecting resources that could be used to create the wind chimes. Georgia had collected some tin cans, Natasha had collected some bottle tops and Lizzie had collected some old keys. As a group, we started tying these resources onto string and then Natasha put them all together to create some amazing wind chimes! We took these to the meadow and attached them to the trees surrounding the meadow area and they work so well. Its lovely to hear them jingling in the wind.

Late last week, Lizzie popped by the school to drop off some resources and ingredients for the gardening club so that they can make their own bird feeders that can also be attached to the trees in the meadow. We are looking forward to seeing them when they are finished and helping the children to tie them to the trees. We really want to bring as much wildlife to the meadow as we can.

Georgia will be visiting the school again later in the week with Carl the carpenter to install the tree seat which has been built and is waiting to be brought to the meadow! It has been painted to match the reflection benches and hopefully will fit perfectly. We really can't wait to see it installed! Everything is finally coming together.

Hopefully now the weather will start to brighten up, which will encourage more flowers to bloom, adding even more colour to the meadow. The next time we visit, will be the final time as we have now reached a stage where it is time to hand over the meadow to the school for good.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Time to Celebrate!!

We were really thrilled to see this news story about the school, acknowledging that they have successfully achieved their Eco Schools Silver Award! The children were photographed in the meadow looking very happy! Please click the link below to see the full report!

Also, big congratulations to the school for achieving a 'good' result in their latest Ofsted inspection. We loved that the meadow got a mention!

'Pupils learn to appreciate the importance of encouraging local wildlife and plants through initiatives such as the school meadow project.'

Monday, 23 April 2018

We're back!

Guess who's back! Our final school experience placement is now officially over, so it is now time to get back into the meadow project and get it finished!

On Thursday 29th March, Lizzie and Natasha decided to pop by the school and see how the meadow was doing. Lizzie had been growing a lot of flowers for the meadow for months at home and decided it was about time to transport them to the school as they were starting to grow and take over her garden. The car was full!!

On arrival to the school, we used Mr Wileman's trusty trolley to get all of the flowers over to the meadow. It was then time for the planting to begin. We had placed all of the flowers around the borders of the pathways so that the whole meadow would eventually (hopefully!!) be covered in bright flowers!

After planting all of the flowers, we decided that the grass was growing more sparse than we had hoped... We are hoping that this is to do with it being so cold and recently having snow, however just in case we scattered some more seed over the area to help give the grass and wildflower a bit of a boost. Hopefully next time we visit, things will have started to make greater progress!

We are all looking forward to getting back into the project and adding the finishing touches! The tree bench will hopefully be getting installed shortly and we will be able to make a start of creating wind chimes and bird feeders.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Half Term Visit

On Friday 16th February, we all decided that it would be a good idea to head back to the meadow to check up on how the growing process was going.

Natasha had been busy at home planting and growing the crocus bulbs that had been donated by the EcoWarriors at school and they were ready to be planted in the meadow. We decided to plant these on the entrance path so that they could be easily seen and make a nice bright welcome.

Honestly, we all felt a little worried about the lack of growth that was happening as the meadow had been left for a while and not a lot seemed to be happening. Fingers crossed on our next visit things will have started to bloom and we can give it one final push before we reach the end of our project!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Time to let it all grow!

On Wednesday 29th November, we all headed back to the school to continue with the meadow.

Mr Wileman kindly put up two bird houses in the trees for us and they looked great! We really hope that birds will start to use them during the spring.

It was time to get to work! Georgia and Natasha completed the log seating area by spreading out some more bark chippings and selecting logs that were a suitable size to sit on and that didn't have an fungi on them. We are hoping that when all the plants have started to grow, this area will be a great sitting area for groups of people to enjoy.

Next, we finished the pathway that leads to and surrounds the circular tree seat and spread out more bark chippings. Carl, the carpenter, is currently busy making the seat for this area and we can't wait to see it all come together in the spring term!

One part of the meadow that we hadn't really addressed was the huge pile of mud and leaves. We knew that somehow we needed to shift it, because a new fence needed to be built in its place. Natasha grabbed her spade and started shovelling the mud into a wheelbarrow, ready for Lizzie to transport it to various locations in the woodland part of the meadow and spread it out. While we were doing this, Georgia decided to make a start of the sanding of the reflection bench. She was doing so well, but unfortunately the sander ran out of battery so instead she came and helped shift the mud. This process took a long time, as we had forgotten how much mud we had actually dug up in the first place. Once it was done, we all felt hugely relieved and glad that we didn't stop until it was done.

We didn't need any help from the gardening team this week, however as the group of children had not yet seen inside the meadow, Natasha took them for a guided tour to get their reaction and answer any questions that they had about it.

Finally, Natasha had bought some grass seed that was suitable for the shady, woodland area of the meadow. We all carefully scattered the seeds, hoping that they will still grow even though the weather is so cold at the moment! Only time will tell!

On Friday 30th November, we all went back to the school along with our lecturer from university who will be marking us on this project, Kirstie. We invited her to see the progress that we had made and hear her thoughts about the meadow baring in mind she hadn't seen it before. She seemed really impressed and hoped that she would be able to visit again at the end of the project to see the final result. We were also visited by a builder on Friday who helped us to finish off constructing the reflection benches. We were struggling to attach the back and arms of the bench but he completed it with ease! Thanks for all your help Danny, we really appreciate it!

Once all of our visitors had left, Lizzie and Georgia headed off to the gardening centre to go and fetch the final bags of bark chipping and some wood preserver, while Natasha stayed at the school to sand the now finished reflection benches. When Lizzie and Georgia arrived back at the school, we spread out the final bags of bark and then got to work painting the preserver onto the bench. We all really enjoyed doing this as it was actually quite therapeutic. We are really pleased with the end result of the benches and are hoping that they will last a long time.

After calculating our final expenditures for the project, we are pleased to say that we have come in under the £500 budget. This leaves some money in the pot for the school to decide where the last bit of money needs to be spent. Our largest expense was the materials for the pathways (bark, membrane, fixings) with the remainder being spent on plants and seeds.

We have now reached a stage where there is not a lot we can do, as we need to allow time for the grass to grow and the ferns to spread. This is perfect timing for us, as we now won't be visiting the school for a while due to attending our final year school placements. We have left Mrs Buncle and the gardening team in charge of our meadow while we are gone, to make sure that the plants get watered and to keep an eye out for any new wildlife!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

The start of the finishing touches...

On Wednesday 22nd November, we had a lovely afternoon with the gardening club. As we are coming to the end of term, we are very close to finishing everything we can do before next year.

Natasha brought in all the holly bushes and ferns that had been ordered and the children enjoyed digging holes and planting these all around the area. Once they had been planted they went round with a watering can and watered them all as well. While some of the children were continuing with this job, others were putting the finishing touches to the bug hotel. It now looks fab so thank you to the gardening club!

When these jobs had been done, we prepped the log seating area ready for the bark to be laid down. Natasha laid the black sheeting and began digging up some soil to line the outskirts while Georgia and Lizzie created the wall. We then put the remaining bark we had left in this area, however it was not quite enough so that is a job to finish for next week!

We made benches!!

On Wednesday 15th November, we began with a lot of heavy lifting! It was a very cold morning but it was only a matter of time before the coats came off. Georgia and Lizzie began by taking the rest of the bags of bark and the pallets needed for the reflection benches from the car park to the meadow area and definitely worked up a sweat. Once we had got everything over, we began creating the remaining pathways using the soil we had previously dug up as last week, then laid the bark on the black sheeting.

Natasha started preparing the ground for the log seating area and whilst moving some soil she spotted a spiky visitor. A baby hedgehog was wandering among the leaves! We were really excited to see such a rare sight, however we were concerned that it should not be around in daylight but also that it was rather small. Not long after the discovery, Mrs Buncle and the gardening club children joined us and were able to see the hedgehog wander around the meadow site. We were very conscious not to get too close but managed to get some fantastic photographs to share!

Today the children did a great job filling the bug hotel with twigs, logs, pine cones, bamboo sticks, bricks and roof tiles to accommodate lots of different insects. They also planted some ferns which in time will spread to give the area a woodland feel.

Meanwhile Lizzie and Georgia worked on the pallet benches. We realised at first that the screws we had bought were much too long as they had come through the other side of the wood. Instead of continuing with these, Natasha went and bought some smaller ones that were just right. We drilled together the base of the bench, and began sawing wood to make the arm rests. We found this very hard work and it took quite a while! We then realised we were not too sure how we were going to attach the back rest onto the base of the bench, so we decided to reach out to Carl the carpenter who kindly said he would screw it on for us at a later date. 

That evening, Natasha called the Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital to seek advice about the hedgehog. Their advice was to weigh it to check it's a suitable weight for hibernation which sadly we guessed was unlikely, meaning it would have to be rescued. More sad news followed, when we were told that the mother hedgehog had been found dead. Fortunately, the baby hedgehog was found by Mrs Buncle and taken to the Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital to be looked after.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

We have pathways!

 On Wednesday 11th November we did a lot of heavy lifting!

Firstly, Georgia and Natasha bought in some more bags of bark for the pathways, which were 100l bags so were super heavy! We started taking it over to the meadow area using the trailer so we didn't injure ourselves. Once we had got it over there, Lizzie and Natasha began filling the rest of the pathway and the reflection area with all the bark, while Georgia started to get rid of all the dreaded fallen leaves!

Once we had filled these areas with the bark, we decided to create one of our pathways in the woodland area behind the meadow. However, because there are trees in this area, the roots are too close for us to dig a layer of soil out, to then lay the black sheeting ready for the bark. We pondered on what to do for a while until Natasha suggested that we use the soil we have already previously dug up, to make a small raised wall as the edges of the pathway. We were a bit unsure at first as to whether it might look a bit strange, but we tried it nonetheless and it looked great! As Natasha was collecting the soil, Lizzie was making the walls either side, and Georgia was laying the bark as we went...team work!

At this point, we had run out of black sheeting so decided we would leave our last pathway until next week. We then thought it would be a good idea to go and look properly at all the pallets everyone has kindly donated, and decided which ones would be used for what. We picked 5 larger square ones for the bug hotel, and the rectangle ones for the reflection bench. Just like with the bags of bark, we found out the pallets were heavier than anticipated! There was a lot of laughter that came with trying to carry them though, and in the end we decided it would probably be easier to just layer them on top of one another on the trailer...so that's exactly what we did.

We took over the pallets for the bug hotel and placed them where we wanted it to go. We then placed our tiles on the top as a start, and decided we would bring as many items as we could find for next week so the gardening club could create all the insides exactly how they like!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Making Great Progress

On Wednesday 1st November, we had a super productive day!

When arriving at the site, Mr Wileman had begun digging the holes to put the fence poles in, and eventually after a good few hours, the fence was up and looking great! Once the fence was all in place, he came back later in the day to fill the holes with cement to make sure it was fully secure. Thanks again Mr Wileman, your help is invaluable!

As Lizzie was the first to arrive, she saw how many leaves had fallen from the trees over the past week so the first job of the day was to clear the leaves from the soil and pathway area, in order for us to be able to dig out the pathways and lay the black weed membrane sheeting. Once these were cleared the digging commenced. The first two pathways were completely dug out and the black sheeting was cut to size and placed down. It felt like we were finally getting somewhere! Georgia bought some nails so we nailed down the sheeting so the wind didn't blow it around before we put the bark chippings on top.

Now that the pathways were done, it was time to start digging out the reflection area. The soil that we dug up we placed back on the edges of the meadow ready to plant grass seeds later in the day. This way, no more soil was going to waste. Just like with the pathways, we then cut the black sheeting to size and nailed this down.

Once we had finished this, it was time for the gardening club to come outside and help us some more. We had some very hands on jobs to do, and everyone did fantastically! One job was to rake all the soil we had placed back on the meadow in order for the grass seeds to lay and grow evenly. This job required a lot of energy and the guys that helped Georgia and Natasha do this were amazing! Another job was to help Lizzie to start putting the bark chippings we already had onto one of the pathways...hopefully the rest will all be put down next week. Natasha also started getting some others to start breaking little twigs off the cut down branches to help us in the making of our bug hotel.

There were also a few helpers clearing up the millions of leaves that were under all the trees towards the back of the meadow, and after all the other jobs had been done, everyone begun collecting leaves as there was so many! The children really enjoyed using the wheelbarrow to collect and get rid of them and they were taking it in turns to do this which seemed to be a great idea! Thanks to everyone's help the area was almost completely cleared from the fallen leaves (ready for this week's leaves to fall again!!)

Finally, Lizzie measured each area of the meadow that we wanted to plant our grass seeds so that we had an approximation of how many square meters it covered. Once this was done, Natasha weighed out the correct amount of grass seeds and flower seeds for each section and mixed it with sand to help us see where we had scattered the seeds. Then Georgia and Natasha sprinkled the seeds all over the areas in vertical and horizontal directions (with the hope that it will grow nicely) and Lizzie helped to tread them into the ground to avoid birds eating them! At this stage we have only planted the grass seeds as Lizzie has made a start on planting bulbs in plant pots at home ready to put in the meadow at a later date...Hooray!