At Hemyock Primary school, we are committed to a creative curriculum that is broad and balanced and that includes awe and wonder. However, after a recent school health and safety audit it was deemed that the decking that surrounds the pond was not safe for use (it was showing its age and had been repaired several times). Therefore, our new focus was to remove and replace the damaged timber so that the children could access this vital component to the broad and balanced curriculum. After submitting a proposal for a grant to the ‘Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) ‘to help fund the replacement of the decking, we were granted the money and with voluntary help from Mr and Mrs Bar, we were able to complete the task, thus ensuring that awe and wonder was still enhanced in the curriculum.
How we went about it…
The Children and staff had previously worked with the AONB team to develop the pond area by clearing the pond and making habitats for the local wildlife that frequently visit. After their help we started to create a hide-out from reclaimed timber so that the children could watch and record the inhabitants as they go about their daily routines.
Part of the remit was to ensure that local businesses were part of this and, with thanks to Brookridge Timber, we were able to source the wood we needed to carry out the repairs and replacement.
The decking was a major task. At first we thought it was only the deck boards that needed replacing but we soon found out that this was not the case and we also needed to replace the supporting joists.
The offending decking boards. The materials arrive. More work than anticipated on the joists.
The new decking ready for use for the pond dippers.
After the decking had been replaced the next stage was to clear some of the weed that had over grown the pond. This is an annual task that needs to be done, otherwise the children will not be able to see the wild life living below the water line. So, the big operation to clear the pond for the dwellers was under way. We remembered to leave the weeds on the side, like the AONB had showed us, when they came to help us at school last year. We did this so that the pond inhabitants could find their way back home.
The final step was to make the wildlife hide water tight and safe for use. We used some of the left-over wood to create windows so that the children can peer through whilst looking for the inhabitants of the pond without disturbing them as they go about their busy lives.
All ready for use.
Sun class went on a hunt to find out what lives in the pond area during the winter.
The children were very excited to use the hide-out as the weather changed from a lovely sunny morning, to a rain shower that turned into a flurry of snow. We stood inside the hut looking through the window watching the British weather changing before our eyes. It was beyond educational!
The children noticed the flora and fauna that either surrounded or grew in the pond, particularly pointing out the bulrushes. I carefully pulled one towards the children so that they could look closely at the brown soft head that was about to fall apart, showing the children the seeds that it had stored. “Wow they feel soft, like my furry blanket,” a pupil commented when she felt the bulrush head.
The children then looked carefully into the dark, cold water of the pond. “Look”! A shout of excitement came from one of the pupils as he pointed eagerly into the depths of the pond. Right enough, there, floating on top of the water, was a small (very small) pond beetle and alongside were seeds from the trees that surround the area. The seeds had been blown into the water over the winter months. This opened up another adventure – looking for the trees that had shed their seeds into the pond.
Moon class children went searching for the pond dwellers too. They found some signs of life and will be on watch over the next few months as spring raises it head.
Although the decking has been replaced, our work has not finished. The children will continue to work alongside their parents and staff to develop the pond classroom. In addition to this, we will continue to work with Blackdown Hills AONB to develop our understanding of the beautiful area that we live and learn in and how to help sustain a healthy population of wild life. The area will also be a vital hub for the school community to take part in national wildlife surveys as we develop the flora and fauna.
Thank you once again to Blackdown Hills AONB for the grant, Mr and Mrs Bar who kindly offered up their skills to help replace the decking and Brookridge Timbers for suppling us with the materials.
You may find this link useful. It is particularly aimed at childre going into secondary school. https://www.safeguardinginschools.co.uk/county-lines/