The Forest School project launched in December 2019 following a £9,500 fundraising initiative to provide students with a fun and engaging facility for outdoor learning.
This week, Portfield School was proudly presented with the Eco-Schools Green Flag, (an internationally recognised award for excellence in environmental action and learning). In order to achieve the accolade, the school had to complete a seven-step process and demonstrate project work in three topic areas.
The steps included; forming an eco-committee, investigating the school’s environmental performance, putting an action plan in place and monitoring progress. The three topics focussed on were waste, healthy living and litter.
Rob Newbery, Forest School Leader, commented: “This is a fantastic achievement and is testament to all the hard work that the children, our “Eco-Warriors”, have put in to create a special and sustainable place. We are all motivated to think of more ways to become even more eco-friendly. With such a difficult year for our students it makes their achievement even greater. We are hugely proud of them.”
The main focus of the Forest School is to encourage regular contact with nature as well as healthy eating and conservation. Being closer to nature has been proven to have a beneficial impact on mental health and on a range of different sensory needs of autistic children.
The Forest School features a pond, bug hotel, vegetable patch and flower beds and is fully equipped with nature cameras, log seating, gardening tools and compost bins. As part of the school’s enrichment curriculum, every student takes part in Forest School lessons and plays a specific role in digging, planting and building structures in the garden.
In the time the Forest School has been open, over 160 trees have been planted, tonnes of waste recycled and a vegetable growing scheme launched, which will soon supply the school kitchen for student lunches.
Next steps are that we plan to become more sustainable by significantly cutting down the use of plastic across the school and set up our plan to achieve zero waste. We hope to increase the food grown on site and explore more renewable energy sources in addition to the solar panels already installed.
A spokesperson for Eco-Schools said “Continuing to work on achieving the Eco-Schools Green Flag award during these unprecedented times is a true reflection of the schools determination to make a real difference. We would like to thank the Eco-Committee for their hard work, and congratulate you all on this achievement.”