Durham Wildlife Trust has named Barbara Priestman Academy in Sunderland as its School of the Year for its conservation work.
DWT experts work with a number of North East schools on educational projects and have helped staff and pupils at Barbara Priestman Academy to develop a range of ideas.
Barbara Priestman educates children with autism and learning difficulties and DWT has helped them to develop an outdoor space as part of the school’s Forest School initiative, as well as helping them stage their recent Forest Fest celebration event in their garden.
Kirsty Pollard, Trust Education & Engagement Officer, said: “I am so encouraged to work in an area where so many schools are delivering exciting outdoor learning programmes and projects which engage children in activities to explore and conserve wildlife in their grounds.
“The School Of The Year Award is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the schools we have engaged with across the year and select one that stands out for their commitment, not only to protecting wildlife, but engaging students of all ages in the outdoor environment.
“The Trust first worked with Barbara Priestman Academy eight years ago to create a pond in their grounds and I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the site last year and see how well the pond is doing. The school have clearly nurtured this habitat and value it as a learning resource.
“It is obvious from setting foot in the school that staff and students have invested a lot of energy, enthusiasm and creativity in developing their outdoor environment and the result is a wonderfully rich and engaging space where wildlife and people can thrive and grow together.”
David Atkinson, the Physical Education teacher who runs the school’s Duke of Edinburgh/Forest School award of which the work forms part, said: “We have had another brilliant year learning outside of the classroom.
“We are continually developing our Forest School with new projects and learning opportunities for our students. Recent developments have been a dam in a stream, a storage hut for equipment, a sensory garden, new nature trails and new hibernaculums.”