Creating a wildlife garden or native woodland area in the grounds of your school can create a wonderful resource for learning. One only has to look at the way in which a flower will force it’s way up through a crack in concrete or tarmacadam to realise that nature will not be suppressed.

Thankfully many schools are starting to create school gardens and some even starting to supply the school kitchen with fresh food. Gardening offers a great opportunity for students to get their hands dirty and observe how quickly plants can grow from seeds. One of the drawbacks of the school garden is that much of the action takes place during the summer months when the school is closed and the weeds and slugs get active but there is nobody to tend to the garden. This might be an opportunity for students and parents to take responsibility for the garden over the summer or even enlist the help of people in the community.

A wildlife or woodland garden on the other hand requires very little maintenance over the summer and can actually be an asset to a school garden. A small pond will encourage frogs who will in turn help keep pests such as slugs at bay. Wild flowers will encourage bees to come and pollinate.

While your wildlife garden and native woodland doesn’t require as much ongoing hands-on activity, it provides a wonderful outdoor space for learning all year round and does require a big all-school effort in the beginning to get it established.

Trees grow quickly and children in the junior classes in particular will get to watch trees grow to an amazing height in the few years that they are in school. Over time trees will grow naturally from seed. If the school woodland is big enough, trees can be planted at different times and can be coppiced.

There are a number of resources for schools thinking of planting such as the trees for schools (www.treesforschools.ie) or the Heritage in Schools programme who have a list of heritage experts around Ireland who might be able to advise. You can find out more by clicking here