PUTTING DOWN STRONG ROOTS
Children love trees and woods. The schools prize in Scotland's Finest Woods Awards has proved that beyond doubt, unearthing some excellent examples of passionate teachers, engaged pupils and wonderful projects.
The 2019 competition for the Crown Estate Trophy (aka "The Squirrel Trophy") - supported by Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland - closes on 31st March and we are all hoping for another worthy winner.
St Mary's School in Melrose pipped Our Lady of Good Aid Primary School in Motherwell to the 2018 Award - and their subsequent work has shown just how deep roots can go if children are engaged in nature at an early age.
After picking up the Award, teacher Tom Rawson said: "We are trying to promote a love of the natural environment so children value it and see it as a place to be enjoyed. We have children aged 2-13 involved in outdoor education. They have written to Michael Gove about plastics pollution and to Sir David Attenborough saying thank you - and to big business asking them to reduce waste. We have built lots of bird boxes and a bird hide from recycled wood, and we are also growing trees using a milk bottle nursery."
However, it was the follow-up that really showed how the school had embraced and developed the spirit of the Awards programme.
Last Autumn, 100 people - including many children, staff and adults from the local and St. Mary’s School communities - came together to plant the First World War Centenary Avenue. Copper beeches were planted along both sides of Annay Road in Melrose, between the Abbey Mill and Newstead, a distance of more than one mile.
Teacher Tom Rawson said: "The trees were planted to serve as a lasting natural monument in memory of those people from the Scottish Borders who fought in the First World War. It is hoped that, for many years to come, those young people who took part will be able to see their tree growing by the edge of the road - and perhaps take a moment to reflect on what each tree represents for this school and this part of the world."
The trees were funded by a grant from the Borders Forest Trust and Tweed Forum, but the school paid for a carved memorial stone from the funds from the £500 Finest Woods Awards prize.
Mr Rawson said: "We have used some more of the money to start off a project called #1918oaks. We are growing 1,918 oaks from acorns in box nurseries made from discarded pallets at local primary schools across the Scottish Borders. We used chicken wire to keep the squirrels out and paid for this, the root trainer cells and the compost with funds from the SFWA prize. I hope that the wee oak trees should be ready to plant out by the children on sites across the region by the end of 2020."
St Mary's is not alone in doing great things. Schools all across Scotland are doing amazing work to engage children with trees and nature. In the decade before St Mary's won the award, the winning schools were in South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Highlands (twice), North Ayrshire, West Lothian, Moray, Argyll & Bute, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
With so much great work going on in Scotland, let's see some more brilliant entries in 2019. Get them in by March 31st!
Full details here: http://www.sfwa.co.uk/schools-award/