Education work has formed a key element of the Flora of the Fells project since 2003. It has included workshops and outdoor activities with a large number of schools and youth groups across Cumbria, development of education activities and an education resource pack.
Most of our work is with Primary schools but some is with Secondary schools. The emphasis is on greater understanding of Cumbria’s upland landscapes and environment; its biodiversity, culture, social, economic and natural resources.
During the Flora Festival 2009 we want to establish a link between the four landscape festival areas of Ennerdale, Loughrigg, Kendal Limestones and Helvellyn, and their local schools. As well as site visits to their local landscape area the schools will be undertaking field work. All schools will then have a follow up session to build on their learning from their site visit and field work. This will include creating art or interpretative work which may then be used or exhibited to the wider community and public as part of the local Flora of the Fells festival activities. Schools can choose to work with a local artist if they wish.
The school work undertaken through the project also fits with the John Muir Discovery Award if the school decides to be involved with the award.
Which schools are involved in 2009?
Kendal Limestone Area
Number of children taking part: 300- 320 children.
Some examples of the work we’ve been doing with these schools -
Aims: Discovering the Scout Scar area through exploration of its landscape, geology and limestone. Appreciation of some of the plants, animals, habitats and their ecology, how the area is managed and issues of the site. Landscape drawing and observation.
Objectives: Children learn more about the limestone, how it was formed and the impacts of the removal and destruction of the limestone pavement. Basic identification skills for a few key plants. Extremes of plant adaptations. Increasing observation and sensory skills. Discovering more about who and what lives on the site including grazers. Mini-landscape exercises, a listening activity. Encouraging the pupils to consider management, uses for the site and potential issues of the different site uses.
Follow up in school:
Objectives: Children are undertaking activities to gain basic skills in plant recognition and increase their understanding of the geography of the area. Environmental/ecology games increase sensory skills of touch, sight and sound and natural materials are used to produce art. The work will hopefully form part of activities undertaken by the school to explore, discover, conserve and share the habitat as part of a John Muir Award.
Follow up: Children are engaged in producing art ans displays about her experiences of Ennerdale which will be displayed locally on the website.
Outcomes and benefits for the children, schools and community
Other benefits which have resulted from working with schools in the past have included development of school wildlife groups, improvements to the school grounds for the benefit of wildlife, use of school grounds as an outdoor classroom and for growing food. It has also increased teachers and parents confidence in using the outdoors and in trying new and different open-air activities. The activities tap into different skills and a variety of learning styles and interests. They help reinforce learning in the class room and children who may do less well in school can often find a niche in this type of learning. It’s about helping to engender a sense of wonder and fun as well as learning.
With only a few exceptions, we find that at least a quarter to one third of the children in most schools rarely get out into the countryside except during the school experience. The Flora school visits are therefore a great opportunity for children to make a connection with the natural environment and for hands on exploration of the countryside in a safe and guided setting. This is now is recognised as being very important for us as human beings, engendering health, well being and improved mental health, especially in our busy, noisy, disconnected world. Children have far less freedom to explore the natural environment, spending much time indoors or in a controlled environment, so these kind of educational visits provide a great opportunity to experience nature and the natural world.
Community benefits: As a result of Flora’s project work in schools parents quite often get involved with the site trips or with work back in the school grounds. Children, take some of the learning home and pass it on to their families. The younger ones will often remember their experiences as being quite formative. We also encourage classes to share their learning with others in the school and the wider community through displays, debates, or presentations, exhibitions, assemblies and interpretative material. A few of the schools we have worked with have gone on to become involved in helping look after their local area - eg. through practical conservation work, helping grow certain plants for particular habitats or wildlife, surveying and monitoring of sites or activity.