The Eco Action Team is made up of representatives from each class. The Reps have responsibilities within their class, for example: emptying the compost caddy, checking the recycling boxes and turning off lights and closing doors when leaving the room. They also represent their class at meetings to discuss, plan and share news of any environmental activities in school. The Action Team also get involved in local, national and global environmental projects working with Exmoor National Park, Buttercross Community Orchard, Surfers Against Sewage, Somerset Wildlife Trust, The RSPB, EDF and other environmental organisations.
Eco Action Team 2019-2020
At our first meeting of the year, we talked about what campaigns and activities we would be getting involved with over the coming year. Everyone agreed to keep up our work to reduce plastic waste and sign up with 'Surfers Against Sewage' to become a 'Plastic Free School'. We also decided we would love to have some more beach visits and, if possible, work again with Somerset Wildlife Trust on their 'Brilliant Coast' campaign.
It was also agreed that we should continue to enjoy our local woodlands and try and increase outdoor learning opportunities for Years 2, 3 and 4. We had signed up with the Woodland Trust's Green Tree Schools award scheme previously and worked towards bronze level. The ambitious eco team decided that we should go for gold this year!
There were lots of other activities and ideas discussed - I think we are going to have a busy year!!
Apple Day is traditionally held around the 17th October as a way of celebrating all things apple. During September and October every year, we are lucky enough to get fruit snacks for free. We have apple and pear trees in our school field and we also sponsor 5 trees at the Buttercross Orchard nearby. This year we had lots of apples so we decided to celebrate Apple Day in school by making our own apple juice. The eco team had a great time and worked really well on a production line - washing, cutting, shredding, pressing, bottling and pasteurising - to create almost 30 litres of sweet, fresh apple juice.
They shared the juice with their classes and it was voted the best apple juice ever tasted!
Plastic Free Schools
Also in October we started work towards being a 'Plastic Free School'. We looked at the five objectives that we need to complete to earn the award.
Objective 1 - We held a meeting to discus what we had already done in school to reduce plastic waste and what more we could do. We signed a pledge and wrote an action plan. We shared news of our campaign with our classes and sent out a newsletter to parents and families.
Objective 2- We held a 'Trash Mob' to collect litter in our school grounds. We identified that there were quite a lot of plastic straws and wrappers from the small cartons of milk that some children have at snack time. There were also wrappers from snack bars. We decided we should do something to prevent this litter.
- We decided to put a special bin for plastic waste on the playground.
- We contacted our school milk suppliers 'Cool Milk for Schools' and changed our milk order so that it is now delivered in 2 litre recyclable plastic bottles. They also kindly supplied us with plastic beakers to drink our milk from.
Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Award
Towards the end of October, Year 3 and Year 4 walked through our local forest to visit a very special tree - the tallest tree in England. While we were there, we were joined by members of the Forestry Commission and environmentalist and broadcaster Chris Sperring. The Year 3 and 4 eco reps helped to plant a new tree to celebrate 100 years of the Forestry Commission.
As well as finding out all about the tallest tree in England, we learned lots from Chris about how important trees are for our planet. After our trip, Year 4 wrote about our visit in the style of a newspaper report and our eco reps were even more inspired to work towards gold on the 'Green Tree Schools' award..
November is 'energy month' and we usually focus on saving electricity and reducing our carbon footprint. This year we were quite ambitious and decided to run two campaigns at once!
Switch Off Fortnight
This is a campaign that is run by edf energy. Every year we join in with schools all around the country, to encourage people to think more about the energy they use and how it is created. We share ideas of ways we can all waste less energy.
The eco team carried out secret missions to check up on classes, and other areas around school, to make sure lights and computers were not left on, rooms were not too warm and doors were being closed. The eco team also presented an assembly to the whole school to tell them about 'Switch Off Fortnight' and why it is important to our planet that we all save energy.
Just One Tree and Green Tree Schools
Inspired by the work of Greta Thunberg, a young environmental activist, the eco team decided they wanted to be activists too and do something to make a difference to our environment. As well as trying to save energy to help the environment, we looked for ways to offset some of the pollution we all create from the energy that we need to use. We found out about a project called 'Just One Tree' which fitted in perfectly with the work we wanted to do for our Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools award. Just One Tree is an international organisation that works all around the world planting new trees to create forests that will help to tackle global warming. Every £1 raised will plant 1 tree somewhere in the world. We decided that we would become 'woodland ambassadors' and encourage other schools to join us to celebrate trees and raise money for the Just One Tree campaign.
Woodland Ambassadors Just One Tree Eco Activity Day
The Eco Team presented an assembly to tell everyone about Just One Tree and explain why trees are so amazing for our environment. They also told everyone that we would be woodland ambassadors, inviting children from Timberscombe School to come and join us for a whole day of tree based fun, learning and fund raising.
We spent the morning walking to and playing in our Moorland Edge Forest School. The children enjoyed building dens, playing hide and seek, exploring the forest or just running around with friends. In the afternoon the children worked in mixed age groups creating tree inspired artwork. At the end of the day we all came together for a special assembly to share our work and our learning. Everyone was asked to bring in £1 on the day.
We raised just over £100 for the Just One Tree campaign, enough to plant 100 trees somewhere in the world!
Meat Free Mondays
After finding out that lots of people around the world, including Greta Thunberg, had given up eating meat or animal products to help the environment, we had a lively discussion at one of our meetings. It was quite hard to keep our faces straight whilst discussing which animals gave off most gasses and how too much poo can be bad for the environment! Most of us thought that giving up animal products completely would be really hard, but we thought we could probably manage to go without meat at school for one day a week. So after discussions with Mrs Philp and Miss Masters, Meat Free Mondays began in November. We didn't want lots of children to not enjoy a cooked lunch, so decided just to give up meat but not milk and cheese.
In December the school was very busy with preparations for Christmas performances and parties, but we still found some time for eco activities and ideas.
Terracycle is a national organisation that provides schemes and collection points for all sorts of plastic waste. We already send our crisp packets to be recycled under one of their schemes so decided to see if we could become a collection point for other waste items. We applied for a few schemes but were not accepted as there are other collection points nearby. We were however accepted on their oral care recycling scheme. We sent out information to the community and set up a collection point for used toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and packaging. The collected items will be sent away to be recycled and a small amount of money will be raised for charity.
We have also set up a collection point for plastic milk bottle tops which will be taken to Alcombe Methodist Church, so get saving at home and bring them in!
Plastic Free Schools Award
Towards the end of December 'Surfers Against Sewage' awarded us achievement of Objective 5 of the 'Plastic Free Schools Award' meaning we are now more than half way there. Just 2 more objectives to go!
To achieve objective 5 we had to change at least three items of single use plastic for more sustainable alternatives.
Our 3 changes were:
- Swapping plastic bags for paper in our school packed lunches.
- Swapping milk cartons and plastic straws for recyclable plastic bottles and reusable beakers.
- Swapping our Christmas crackers at our school Christmas lunch for sustainable ones made from recycled paper and not containing plastic toys.
We are continuing to make any changes that we can, around school and in the offices and kitchen, to reduce single use plastic.
Eco Action Team 2018-2019
Switch Off Fortnight
The Eco Action Team's first project, in the Autumn term, was 'Switch Off Fortnight'. This is a national campaign run by EDF energy through their educational website 'The Pod'. Schools all over the country join in to encourage awareness of electricity usage and share ways to save power and save the planet!
First, the Action Team carried out a secret mission. They visited all the classrooms and other areas of school to find out if lights or computers had been left on when not needed, or if rooms were too warm. They really enjoyed sneaking about with their clipboards!
Then they led a special assembly to tell the whole school what they had found out on their secret mission. They also shared a short film from 'The Pod' explaining why it is important to save energy and shared ideas of how to save energy both at home and school.
There are interactive activities and more information about this and other environmental projects on www.jointhepod.org
Wassail is an ancient tradition of thanking and blessing fruit trees that happens on the 17th of January every year.
On Thursday 17th January this year, the Eco Action Team joined committee members at The Buttercross Community Orchard in Dunster to carry out a Wassail ceremony to thank the trees sponsored by our school. Each class has their own tree in the orchard and every year we are given apples from the orchard for healthy snacks in the autumn term.
First, they hung toast soaked in apple juice in the branches of each tree. The toast is to encourage the robin to come to the tree to feed and also eat any bugs that might damage the tree.
Then they sang traditional Wassail songs to thank and bless the trees.
Next, they used instruments and their voices to make as much noise as they could to frighten away any bad things!
Finally, they drank some apple juice to toast the health of the trees. This apple juice was very special because it was made from the apples from our own trees!
The Buttercross Community Orchard is situated just up the road from school, behind the Buttercross. It is managed by a committee of volunteers and is there to be used and enjoyed by the community. There are picnic benches and a grassy area for playing. Join us in the summer for our family picnic day - date to be confirmed.
RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch
Once again, along with schools from all around the country, our school has helped the RSPB with their work to survey and protect birds in the UK this year.
A couple of weeks before our bird watch, the Eco Action Team set up feed stations in the school field and Nature Garden to encourage more birds to our grounds and help them out during the cold spell. They put out seed feeders, peanut feeders, fat balls and meal worms.
On a sunny February afternoon, the Eco Action Team split into two groups and spent one hour counting the birds that visited our grounds. We sat quietly in both the field and the Nature Garden, using binoculars and posters to help identify what we saw. We had to count the most amount of any species that we saw together on the ground, in a tree or at a feed station. This way we made sure that we didn't keep counting the same bird over and over again!
We sent our results to the RSPB. They will use the results from the survey to help identify which birds are doing well and which birds are in decline and need some help.
For more information about the work of the RSPB visit their website: www.rspb.org . You will also find ideas for things you can do at home to help nature in your garden.
Somerset's Brilliant Coast and Wild Beach
Following on from our 'Waste Week' campaign last year focussing on plastic waste pollution, the Action Team are working with Somerset Wildlife Trust as part of their 'Somerset's Brilliant Coast' campaign. The children will be taking part in 'Wild Beach' sessions, for 3 consecutive weeks, at Dunster Beach. Wild Beach has a similar ethos to Forest School and aims to help children build a positive relationship with their local coastal environment, through fun and hands on learning experiences. From these sessions the children will develop a greater awareness of coastal wildlife, geology and local history along with a better understanding of beach safety. They will then be able to share their learning with the rest of their class on beach days out during the summer term.
Wild Beach - session one
On Wednesday 20th March we began our Wild Beach work with Somerset Wildlife Trust. The weather was good and our project leader, Tilda, had prepared activities to help us enjoy and explore our beach.
Our first task was a scavenger hunt. We were given buckets to collect things in and explorer sheets to tell us what to look for. Some of the things we tried to find were:
Something the same colour as our eyes,
Something that goes pop,
A piece of driftwood,
A seed or egg case,
A mystery item that you don't recognise,
The children were very good at finding things and inquisitive to find out what their mystery objects were!
Once each group had shared their finds, we began our next challenge - to create a piece of 'Beach Art' using pebbles, shells, driftwood, seaweed and anything else we could find. The children were very creative . . . more so than the adults!
After all their hard work, the children were particularly excited about the last activity - Lighting the storm kettle to make hot chocolate! They had to work for it first though, by collecting small sticks and tinder for the fire.
Wild Beach - Session two
The weather was glorious for our second session and the tide was in, giving us a different experience of our brilliant beach.
We learned that our area has the second quickest tide in the world, so if you're not careful you can get trapped in a bay or cove by the incoming sea. That's why our local Coastguard and Lifeboat crew are kept so busy!
This week our first activity was a sound-scape. The children enjoyed sitting or lying quietly with blindfolds on just listening to the sounds around them. After a short while, we came back together and shared our experiences. We sat in a circle and used a piece of driftwood as a talking stick.
The children really enjoyed getting creative for our next activity. They had to design and build a 'Beach Guardian' to watch over our brilliant beach. After collecting driftwood, pebbles, shells and anything else that looked useful, the children set about fixing together with string and clay and adding details to their creations. They also thought about what their guardian would do to protect their territory. Jude's guardian had a special scoop to filter plastic from the ocean and a crusher to crush the plastic into blocks to build its den!
Time for one last activity before lunch - a really important one!
Working in teams with litter pickers and buckets, the Action Team got busy scouring the beach and collecting any plastic waste or rubbish. They learnt how important it is when visiting the beach to 'leave only footprints' and found out some of the dangers to wildlife caused by plastic waste. Dunster Beach is a very clean beach, but even so we collected quite a lot of waste in a short time.
Wild Beach - session 3
The Eco Action Team were sad that today would be their last session at the beach. Harry from Year 1 wanted to know why we couldn't do it every week, as we had learned so much! The weather was a little wet and windy, but we didn't let that dampen our spirits - we put on our wellies and waterproofs and got on with it!
Our first activities got us thinking about food chains and the perils of living life in a rockpool. The children had to pretend to be limpets and react to changing environmental conditions - high tide, low tide, and a variety of predators. It was very entertaining to watch! They then pretended to be anemones using tentacles to feed, learning that the more tentacles you have the easier it is to catch bubbles . . . or food!
For our next activity, we were joined by a marine biologist called Mark. He and Tilda led us on a 'rocky shore ramble' and helped us to identify all of the creatures that we found and told us some interesting facts about them. The tide was low, so there was lots of beach and rock pools for us to explore. We had a great time and found many interesting things.
After a long and enjoyable session of rock pooling in the chilly wind, the children were definitely ready for the storm kettle hot chocolate, lunch and a last session treat of toasting marshmallows!
Our very last 'wild beach' activity was to reflect on our time at the beach and think of a personal pledge we could make to help protect or enjoy our local environment. We then had to collect a pebble from the beach and used special pens to write our pledge and decorate our pebbles.
"We learned lots, I never knew limpets could move!" Helaina Y4
" I have never seen a storm kettle before!" Amanda Y4
" I pledged to visit the beach more often." Jude Y2
"In all my years of living by the sea, I have never seen a Mermaids Purse!" Mr Deeks
" I really enjoyed making the beach guardians and playing the limpet game." Erin Y4
" We pledged to pick up litter every time we visit the beach." Harry Y1, Dylan Y3 and Lola Y2.
"The children all really enjoyed our sessions and remained enthusiastic, even when the weather was a little cold and wet. They were so excited by their discoveries and loved all of the games we played. We would like to say a big thank you to Tilda and Somerset Wildlife Trust for inviting us to take part." Miss Turton
The Eco Action Team would like you to know we are now also a Learning Partner with the Exmoor National Park.
They would like to thank the kind volunteer drivers of the Exmoor Community Mini-bus who transported us to our Wild Beach Sessions.
Waste Week 2019
Following their Wild Beach work and World Oceans Day on Saturday 8th June, the Eco Action Team were keen to link our 'Waste Week' campaign with single use plastic pollution.
Waste Week is a national campaign run by EDF through their educational website jointhepod.org. This year schools all around the country have also been thinking about the problems caused by single use plastic.
The team held a meeting to decide on this year's campaign plan and they came up with some very good ideas!
After making a 'to do' list and delegating tasks (in true management style!) our campaign began this week 10/06.
The team presented an assembly to the whole school encouraging everyone to take responsibility to reduce their own plastic waste. They also sent letters home to encourage the support of families to pledge a personal achievable action.
Inspired by Jude's plastic crushing beach guardian, we have decided this year to try collecting lunch time and snack time plastic waste and packing it into plastic bottles to make 'eco bricks'. The Y4 Eco Reps have been busy collecting and washing plastic packaging ready to hand over to Y2, who have kindly offered to be our 'crushers'.
Another idea this year was to talk to the school kitchen about ways to reduce plastic waste from school dinners.
As it happens, Miss Masters and the team were already on the case!! We now use 'veg ware' pots for desserts and
'veg ware' spoons for packed lunches. Also the school packed lunches now come in paper bags.
Surfers Against Sewage
Plastic Free Schools Award
With all the work we have been doing to raise awareness of plastic in the environment and reduce our use of single use plastic in school, we have decided to join the above scheme in the new school year. We will be working with Surfers Against Sewage to become a 'plastic free school'. Watch this space!