Earthwatch Europe has worked with Bygrove Primary School and Sacred Heart RC Primary School in London to help them become the UK’s first ‘Green Earth Schools’. Pupils designed and created new green spaces on site to improve biodiversity and nature connectedness. 

Launched in February 2023, the Green Earth Schools programme sees Earthwatch staff collaborate with schools across the UK to create the optimal nature features for their grounds to support outdoor learning. The programme helps students build a strong connection to nature and use their voices to drive solutions-based approaches to environmental challenges. These skills and experiences are essential in creating enduring, positive relationships with nature.

The first two schools to have joined the Green Earth Schools movement are Bygrove Primary School in East London and Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Battersea. Both schools are located in densely-populated parts of the capital with little access to nature. Each school was visited by members of the Earthwatch Education team for two consecutive workshops. The ‘Creativity Day’ taught pupils about nature-based solutions and engaged them in designing the new green spaces in their school using LEGO® Build The Change.

‘Creativity Day’ at Bygrove Primary School – pupils using LEGO® to design their new green spaces

This was followed by the ‘Build Day’, for which the Earthwatch team returned with landscapers to install a selection of the most suitable nature features with active involvement of the pupils. For Bygrove Primary School, this included a living wall, raised planters, a pink bird bath and unique bird seesaw. The Sacred Heart school community added a pond, raised planters and a mini orchard to their grounds. All Green Earth Schools workshops were supported by LEGO® Group and The Tomoro Foundation. 

‘Build Day’ at Bygrove Primary School – the installation of the new nature features is complete

 Fiona Durnian, Head of School at Bygrove Primary School, said:

“Our school is situated in a densely populated part of London with very few green spaces. Many of our children live in flats without access to garden spaces. Our children love being in nature for their learning and play, so opportunities to engage with nature are valuable. They are also important elements of our curriculum, particularly the science and geography learning. As well as a way to enhance learning, we believe that access to nature and green spaces is integral to high well-being and happiness.”

Mr Brading, Executive Headteacher at Sacred Heart RC Primary School, said:

“Sacred Heart have been delighted to partner with Earthwatch for the Green Earth Schools project. They have created a wonderful school garden space for children to experience growing and promoting nature and diversity. They have put the education and involvement of the children at the forefront of the project, and the children have been left with a real sense of ownership of the space that has been developed.”

The ‘Build Day’ at Sacred Heart RC Primary School was attended by special guests including the former and current Mayor of Wandsworth (pictured) and the Bishop of Southwark

Green Earth Schools builds on the success of Earthwatch’s Tiny Forest programme which brings mini, intensely-planted and fast-growing native forests to urban centres. Tiny Forest was launched in 2020 and in three years has planted over 200 Tiny Forests in the UK – the equivalent of 120,000 trees. The Tiny Forest programme has involved over 70 schools across the UK to date, working with students to create quality green space in urban areas.

Louise Hartley, Senior Programme Manager from Earthwatch Europe said

“We were thrilled to work with Bygrove Primary School and Sacred Heart RC Primary School as the UK’s first two Green Earth Schools. At the Creativity Day, the children had so many amazing ideas. It was heart-warming to see how excited the students were to see their designs come to life and of course the joy of planting and getting muddy! Projects like Green Earth Schools are so important to ensure that children have access to nature and wild spaces. We’re looking forward to working with more schools and creating more amazing outdoor learning spaces”.

Sacred Heart RC Primary School before and after the Green Earth Schools transformation

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and also ranks bottom of the table in Europe for nature connectedness. Alongside this, 84% of the UK population lives in an urban environment. Recent studies have found that people with a high level of nature connectedness enjoy better mental health and are more likely to act in environmentally friendly ways. Through programmes like Green Earth Schools, Earthwatch is committed to helping urban communities connect with nature and take action to combat climate change and protect wildlife.

The Green Earth Schools programme is a great opportunity for funders looking to invest into a greener future and the next generation of environmental changemakers. For more information, please take a look at our Green Earth Schools webpage or contact our Development Team.   

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