Louise Carr, a technology manager at the Protective Coatings site in Felling, Tyne and Wear, UK, knew her daughter’s school was keen to do so – but lacked the necessary resources and funding.
A keen supporter of East Boldon Junior School, she decided to appeal to her colleagues for help in making a real difference to the school’s facilities and took on the role of project coordinator.
“The school was built in 1967 and teaches around 240 pupils aged from seven to 11,” explained Louise. “One of the employee volunteers actually attended it back in the 1960s and commented how it hadn’t changed at all – the classrooms and dining area are exactly the same. Schools in the UK have very limited resources and don’t have the funds to create more diverse learning environments.”
The school already had an outdoor classroom where children could grow seeds and learn about the food chain, and regularly held activities to teach them about waste and recycling. But more needed to be done so that a more extensive program could be implemented.
The children took part in a competition to design their ideal garden, with suggestions including vegetable patches, bird houses, bug hotels and using old boots as planters. Using their ideas, Louise then worked closely with one of the teachers, Mrs McCann, to draw up the plans, and approached the Community Program for financial support.
“I think it’s vital to capture young children’s minds and imaginations – they are the inventors of our future. If we can plant the seed for them to start thinking about the world’s resources and environment now, who knows what great things they might achieve?” said Louise.
It was decided that a greenhouse and raised beds would be installed, along with a recycling area and composter, seating and also a fire-pit which would help with studies of the Stone Age period. A day was arranged for the initial work to be carried out by 21 AkzoNobel volunteers, who were joined by a group of 30 parent volunteers, children, and the school dinner ladies were also there to provide refreshments.
“We cleared a stone circle area to provide space for the fire-pit and unearthed some lovely stone footpaths that were overgrown,” said Louise. “We renovated raised beds and installed new ones, cleared old shrubs and roots, and reshaped a shrub that was meant to the in the shape of the school emblem.”
The parents and children have agreed to meet three times a year to maintain the area and equipment, ensuring the project is sustainable. As well as organizing these sessions, Louise is arranging regular workshops based around chemistry and the environment to encourage the children to think about a career in that area.