Teacher and Eco-Coordinator, Edd Moore, shares ideas from his experiences of building a nature-rich curriculum whilst protecting and restoring biodiversity with his learners in their school grounds.

(All images are supplied, and used with permission, by Edd Moore)

Note. Please ensure you are aware of the laws under the Wildlife and Countryside Act when collecting seeds.

"Since the release of the Department for Education Sustainability Climate Change Strategy in April 2022, there has been more urgency for schools to teach children about how they can support their school to become Zero Carbon by 2030 and take climate action.

 Embedding nature and the environment into our Damers First School curriculum, making it part of our ethos and creating a legacy, is something that all schools are beginning to focus on. Sustainability and the natural world is set in our curriculum through enquiry based projects which go through every subject area like a golden thread. We want learning to impact on our pupils’ thinking and actions to enable them to focus on issues at school, community or global level. These enquiries are planned to link with the natural cycles of the seasons and to open up a journey of meaningful exploration. Building understanding and appreciation of the natural world is the first step to nurturing a generation who actively want to care for their world.

Nature words are disappearing from childrens vocabulary at an alarming rate with children unable to identify wildflowers and trees around them such as oak trees, cowslip, buttercup, or dandelion. The Lost Words book by Robert Mcfarlane and Jackie Morris was a great way to start the project with their amazing illustrations and poems.

Our enquiry question for the term was, “What is my favourite Wildflower?”

I am very passionate about children recognising and identifying what they see around them in our school grounds and community. I thought a nature journal with my Year 1 class would be a good way to document what the children discovered and identified, allowing them to look back at what they had found but also use it to help teach other children and adults about the natural world around them too.

Transforming a disused carpartk into a wildflower meadow

I read a story to my class called Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers where a young girl called Funni turns a disused carpark into a wildflower meadow. This gave the children the idea of adapting a bare piece of land near the school that needed looking after and bringing it to life.

The Duchy of Cornwall, with support from Dorchester Town Council, agreed that the school could adopt a disused piece of land on the Great Field which is next to the school that could be turned in to a Damers’ wildflower meadow by the children collecting different wildflower seeds from other wildflowers. This was a good way to teach the children the importance of nature’s life cycles. Also the children learned that they didnt need to go to a Garden Centre to buy the seeds.

 The children were then hooked and wanted to discover what wildflowers were in the school grounds. They used identification charts that I had put together and the Seek iNaturalist identification app to identify wildflowers and trees by looking at their leaves and flowers to match up the correct ones. The children drew what they had found in their journals, labelling and writing down what they noticed, using their senses, I wonder questions: What, When, Where, How, Why and It reminds me ofgetting them to connect their observations with things they already knew.

The children discovered a range of wildflowers and plants in the school grounds that included teasel that was used to comb cotton, red hot poker that got its name from a poker that was used to poke a fire because of its yellow, orange and red colours. Knapweed seeds are a great source of food for Goldfinches. Ragwort is a great pollinator for bees and butterflies and is not poisonous or a danger to adults and children as some people think. The children then wrote facts about the wildflowers in their literacy lessons putting together their own identification booklets.

The children were given a list of wildflowers they could collect the seeds from and out they ventured with their families and friends at weekends to collect the seeds and sow them on their bare piece of land on the Great Field. It was great to hear children going to different locations in Dorset to find these seeds. They discovered that there are different types of knapweed known as Black Knapweed and Brown Knapweed. All this gave the children the chance to share the knowledge they had learned in class in a different surrounding with their families and friends who were amazed at what they knew.  Many children made their own wildflower meadow in their gardens or on their balconies using pots or reusing different containers like a mop bucket, car wheel rims, wellington boots and wooden pallets.

At the end of the Summer Term, the children gave tours of the school grounds to their families, other classes in the school, and local charities. They named the wildflowers with facts. Everyone was surprised by how much the children knew.

The nature journaling project relates so well to the National Education Nature Park and Climate Awards that were launched in October 2023 where young people can map the biodiversity found in their school grounds using technology. This information will then help them to decide what they need to put in place to encourage more wildlife into their school grounds. This could include a pond or wildflower meadow.

The children, who are now in Year 2, are raising money for an information board for the Damers Meadow on the Great Field to help educate the community and tourists about what wildflowers, insects and birds they might see with facts using the knowledge they have gathered. The children hope to raise the money by the start of January 2024 so the board can be in place in the Damers Meadow by June/July 2024."