Roots and Shoots is keen to involve children in environmental education by hosting school visits to the wildlife garden. Teachers can discuss their needs and arrange a visit by telephoning the Environmental and Educational Resources Manager on 020 7587 1131 or by contacting us by email.
From Spring 2016 the new Natural Roots Building (previously the Wildlife Garden Study Centre) will open. This will provide a more comfortable, more sophisticated and more flexible indoor learning space to accompany the Wildlife Garden. School bookings will restart after the more limited provision in the last 18 months. We also hope to start new programmes with the improved site - additional greenhouse space and new raised beds. These will focus on growing heritage food crops with pollinators in mind. Adult and Family-Learning programmes are also planned.
The majority of the regular school visits tend to cover a few specific aspects of the curriculum - 'mini-beasts' (including pond life), food chains, habitats, the parts of plants and plant growth, the seasons. Occasionally a school will ask for something on history, change and the local environment.
Resources - worksheets - have been devised for these areas of the curriculum; they are updated or redesigned for particular school requirements when necessary. In addition there are visual resources displayed in the garden showing invertebrates and their life cycles - they are rotated according to season and the displays are close to relevant habitats. New interpretation sheets for particular natural spectacles are designed on a regular basis.
The Wildlife Garden Study Centre provides opportunities for expanding environmental education, such as studying the micro-organisms from the ponds under the video microscope, and children's workshops with visiting artists. Using the video microscope a whole class can observe pond water at up to 2000 x magnification. This means you can see bacteria and diatoms - as well as daphnia ('water fleas') over one metre across (filling the whole wall). We often see remarkable microscopic behaviour in organisms that seem more like science fiction. We can learn a lot about the nature and origins of life on Earth by observing, studying and thinking about these organisms.
Bee Hive visits have been possible since 2000 when a collection of protective bee clothing was begun. A group of up to 8 children and 8 adults (of varying sizes) can now be taken into the apiary to observe the opening of hives. This is a very popular activity, though it needs a fairly lengthy session or one devoted entirely to the bees. It also needs suitable weather conditions. Hive visits are also run during Open Days and evenings.
(The events and programmes below continue, though there will be more news on developments for 2016 soon)
Another approach to education for schools has been through more extended 'Special Programmes' which ensure that the children participating develop a more intimate relationship with the garden. From Autumn 2000 connections with national environmental programmes have been established. These include:
A further important role of the Wildlife Garden has been for children and students with Special Educational Needs and from Special Schools. For example, repeat visits from Clapham Park school for children with visual impairment and from the former Michael Tippett School, for secondary age students, developed close relationships between individuals and the garden. They were able to engage in gardening activities as well as experiencing plants with particular sensory impact.
Educational activities can be suited to children of all ages, including those with special needs.