Schools

"Biodiversity is often one of the first features of the environment to figure in school activities"

‘Biodiversity – The UK Action Plan’ (1994)

WEAVING WILLOW
Learning about the usefulness of biodiversity through weaving willow.

Copyright: The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Definition of Target Audience

The target audience is the staff and students in all schools Lancashire.

Links with Species and Habitat Action Plans

Today’s school students will determine what happens to biodiversity tomorrow. Concern about environmental issues is probably greater at the present time than it has been for many generations. If this concern is to be translated into informed and positive action then it is important that biodiversity and other sustainability issues are integrated into the curriculum. The schools sector taken as a whole has substantial landholdings which form a significant part of greenspace in urbanised landscapes.

Current Initiatives in Lancashire

  • LEA Advisers: Local Education Authority Advisers assist schools in different parts of the curriculum.
  • Lancashire Environmental Education Forum: A forum for teachers, LEA advisers, environment centre organisers and others to exchange ideas.
  • Environmental Education Centres: Those active in the County include: Knott End, Hothersall Lodge, Penwortham, Mere Sands Wood, Leighton Moss, County Museums.
  • Learning through Landscapes: A national initiative aimed at encouraging schools to use their grounds for educational purposes.
  • Grounds maintenance: As part of the County’s LA21 the County Council has pledged itself to "develop a service for the management of school grounds for wildlife".

  • Lancashire Countryside Officers: Sometimes work with schools to encourage environmental improvements in school grounds.

Methods of Communication with Target Group

  • Internet and Intranet – Government-backed initiatives such as ‘National Grid for Learning’ are encouraging schools to ‘go online’. This will increasingly be an excellent way to provide information to schools.
  • Green Envelopes Teachers receive huge amounts of paperwork and it is a challenge to make sure that information about the BAP project gets to the ‘right person’ in school. Whatever material is sent needs to stand out from the other literature, which s/he receives. One way to achieve this is by making use, if possible, of "official" channels (e.g. newsletters produced by the County Council’s Schools Advisory Service). There are also ‘Green Envelope schemes’ whereby relevant information is disseminated to school environmental co-ordinators in a recognisable package. These are operated in some districts/areas but not all. Examples in operation include ones in West Lancashire and Burnley.

Issues

Teachers need time, training and some external assistance to integrate environmental issues into the curriculum. As far as the Science National Curriculum is concerned, biodiversity is particularly relevant at Key Stages 1 -4 (5 - 16 year olds). However, there are other subject areas that can be used to introduce biodiversity concepts such as in English or Mathematics. There are also relevant A and AS Levels (e.g. "Science for Everyday Life" AS Level).

Schools lack sources of local biological data that can be used for Science Attainment Targets. This issue could be addressed through the BAP Public Involvement Plan by the promotion of links with universities and/or field centres and through encouraging schools themselves to collect and share biological data. There are several existing projects) that encourage schools to collect ecological data. Examples include the RSPB's garden birds survey, or the Mersey Basin Trust's river and stream surveys. If there were a mechanism for schools to readily exchange this information, it would enhance the value of these data sets. For example, schools could compare the results of surveying 'their' local stretch of canal with other sections of the same canal surveyed by different schools.

There are often good opportunities in School Grounds to improve biodiversity but there can be problems. Firstly, lack of funds to set about the task (or lack of knowledge about sources of funds). Secondly, there can be problems over the maintenance of environmental areas once these are set up. In the case of some (particularly urban?) schools it may be difficult to improve school grounds (e.g. if they are mainly concrete) and schools might look to ‘adopting’ other pieces of land. For this reason, the Mersey Basin Campaign operate an ‘adopt a stream scheme’ and Tidy Britain Group encourages schools to adopt sections of road verge.

Historically, UK conservation movements have found it difficult to engage with certain sectors of the community (in particular with ethnic minority groups). A better understanding of why this is the case will help the project when it comes to gaining active support from schools in some parts of the county.

Actions Proposed

Broad Objective:

A. Improve communication between schools and other BAP partners about biodiversity initiatives within Lancashire

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. To establish and maintain an electronic system for exchange of information on biodiversity initiatives involving schools.

1. Set up a website accessible to schools including data sets for use by science teachers. (At least twenty schools to be using/sharing ecological data by end of 2001) (High)

LCC, Schools, LEA advisers, RSPB, WT, MBT

S

RM

2. Initiate school biodiversity projects focussing on one aspect of the county's biodiversity (e.g. garden birds) per year (starting 2001) and publish results on website. (High)

Schools, LEA advisers, RSPB, WT, MBT

M

RM

 

Broad Objective:

B. Improve teacher awareness of biodiversity in the curriculum

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Provide INSET training on biodiversity

1. Set up a programme of INSET training events about biodiversity. (Five events in 2001) (Medium)

LEAs, WT, RSPB

M

A

 

Broad Objective:

C. Establish mechanisms to improve management of school grounds for biodiversity

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Develop a service for the management of school grounds for wildlife.

1. Work with LEAs to draw up proposals by 2001.

LCC, WT

S

A, LM

Date: April 2001.

 

 

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