We are Tree Action and Warden Park Academy fundraising for £7,000 to fund a tree planting and garden design project in the school grounds - a place where students can re-connect with nature whilst contributing to improving the environment.
Tree Action is a community interest company, planning to work with five schools in the next two years. We are currently working in partnership with Warden Park Secondary Academy in Cuckfield, West Sussex, to help them plan and fundraise for the development of an orchard, woodland, gardens and outdoor learning space. The students on the school grounds are involved and will be responsible for building, designing, developing and maintaining the site.
We aim to help schools and colleges make tree planting and environmental projects happen for the students.
Three out of five secondary school pupils have either experienced mental health problems themselves or are close to someone who has, according to research by mental health charity MIND and the number of pupils in all UK schools with special educational needs (SEN) is increasing every year.
Many studies show direct and positive links between experiences in nature and children’s mental, emotional and physical health and well-being. Regular direct access to nature can increase self-esteem and resilience against stress and adversity. It also improves concentration, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, and self-awareness. Yet how often do our students get such opportunities to connect with nature at school?
We are facing unparalleled global challenges with climate change and the need to plant huge numbers of trees is evident in order to meet agreed targets to offset carbon emissions and slow global warming.
UK schools can also use their own spaces to make an impact. Our students can be part of making that change. Tree planting and environmental projects give the students an opportunity to be part of the climate solution, whilst engaging them with nature, and helping the school to reduce its own carbon footprint.
However, schools and colleges often don't have the time or resources to organise or pay for such projects. We help the school obtain the trees and resources to plant and look after them, helping with fundraising if necessary, giving the students a sense of responsibility and pride, so promoting their own mental wellbeing.
The initial event was to organise tree planting at Shoreham Academy Secondary School in 2019.
Melanie Edwards, Head of Inclusive Learning at Shoreham Academy commented: " Tree Action was a catalyst in making sure we went ahead and planted some trees and got the students involved.. making sure we had all the resources necessary for me to start off with this project..I think this project should be funded as much as possible.. it gives the children the opportunity to get involved at grass roots level, planting trees, making a difference and being involved" .
As well as young saplings being planted by students, there may often be scope for many more mature trees to be planted, but this is not budgeted for, and the schools have to be more focused on delivering the curriculum. In addition there are now the challenges posed by Covid-19, so it doesn't happen. All the while, young people are under increasing stress, including those on the SEN register. Connecting with environmental projects on site can reduce that stress. Opportunities for the students to maintain their own trees outdoors can be a good thing for them in the classroom!
( Above: First TreeAction project at Shoreham Academy, November 2019 )
Last year, Ben Woods, English teacher and House Coordinator at Warden Park Secondary Academy started a school Eco-Committee with the idea of raising awareness of the global climate crisis and how the school could help. Since its inception, the school has seen a significant increase in recycling and interest in the environment.
Attached to the school is a large plot of land which, with the help of several members of staff, was partially cleared in 2019. It had once been a thriving allotment area, used by both the school and the local community for growing a variety of fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, over time it had been neglected and had become overgrown.
Seeing the potential for use, Ben undertook to re-establish the importance of an outside learning space and set up links to the local community. Ben heard about the first Tree Action project at Shoreham Academy and contacted Ricky Purnell the organiser, and also local community member Pauline Sutherland and a plan finally started to come together.
There are now also plans to build a cabin that will take at least 35 seated as an alternative outdoor learning space for students and the community for evening/weekend environmental projects, geodomes for projects managed by the students including hydroponics, seedlings and potting, raised planting beds.
With the help of an arborist, a space was identified for planting around 1000 saplings, and 57 standard 2-4 year old trees, including more fruit trees, 12 beeches and limes, and around 21 other standard trees.
( Left: Planned locations for planting Beech and Lime trees (A) Cherry, Pear and Apple Trees (B) , Saplings and young Oaks transplanted from the allotment (C) . Centre: View of the area for the fruit trees. Right: Locations for the garden project, outdoor learning area, Hazel and Chestnut Trees. )
We need to fundraise for our plan, which is to plant 24 Cherry, Apple and Pear trees, 12 Beech and Lime trees, 16 Hazel and Chestnut trees, and 5 Silver Birches as well as design and develop the garden project including an outdoor learning space. Many of the trees have been chosen to encourage biodiversity.
" We have a wonderful opportunity with so much space to be able to fill up with trees. It gives us an opportunity to engage the students and staff with the environment around them. We're looking to raise money so we can introduce more trees onto the site, especially fruit trees " - Ben Woods
Warden Park Student and Eco Lead Callum Greenyer says " By planting trees around the school it benefits the students , creating an escape from the classroom and a space to appreciate nature and the environment. "
All the new trees will need protection from rabbits and deer in the form of guards and stakes, as well as fertilizer. We also need hired hands to help organise the space and replant some existing young oak trees into new areas, as well develop the former allotment area into a valuable outdoor learning resource we can be proud of! Students will be involved in re-designing the garden area and looking after all the trees, so there will be plenty of watering, tendering and project work to do.
Funds raised in this campaign will ensure the establishment of this woodland for the enjoyment and benefit of all our students for many years to come, as well as development of the garden and outdoor learning resource. Over 90% of the funds raised will go to Warden Park Academy, but you will also be helping Tree Action on the start of its journey to help other schools make projects like this happen.
Take a look at some of the great rewards we're offering! We really hope you can support us!