CREATING an area of woodland in their school grounds helped pupils learn more about sustainability.

The project - carried out in conjunction with Trish Mersh, a volunteer with the local environmental group Burley Tree Project - enabled the year three pupils at Burley and Woodhead C of E Primary School to get in touch with nature and learn about the long-term advantages of planting trees.

Their efforts formed part of their work surrounding sustainable development – one of seven themes the children are exploring.

“We identified an area of our grounds that we thought would be an ideal place for some smaller trees such as rowan and crab apple, that together would create a small orchard,” explains deputy head teacher Andrew Wilkinson.

“The children collected around 30 trees and planted them in holes dug by adult helpers. They really enjoyed themselves.”

As well as smaller trees, the youngsters planted an oak tree in an area where they plan to create a story circle. The tree’s branches will provide welcome shade on hot days.

To tie in with the planting, the children learned how deforestation has a huge impact not only on the area in which it is taking place, but across the globe.

They recorded their experiences on a short film, using footage of the tree planting alongside footage made using green screen techniques. “They presented the film as a news story - in one section the backdrop is a newsroom in which pupils are reading the news, and then they present from a tropical rain forest,” says Andrew. “In the film the children talk about how trees benefit us all.”

Among the children who took part, Ben, says: “After I planted my tree we went to plant an oak tree. We all ran down the field to the oak tree spot. We gathered around the oak sapling and said special words as Hugo and Henry planted the tree. I will come back in 30 years and see a great oak tree.”

Cara also felt the oak tree was special: “The best part came when we planted the oak tree. We planted it next to the deep pond because it is a peaceful place for such a nice tree.”

Danny was pleased that the trees would help the planet. “We planted trees because they will help carbon dioxide get out of the atmosphere and also slow down global warming.”

Says Iris: “One day in the future this orchard will be a fun place to play around.”

Sophie considered how the tree would be used by future pupils: “If it’s a really hot day and people are playing on the running track they’ll be able to come here to where we planted our trees and get some shade.”

Pearl thought about the future of the tree she put in the ground. “I might come back here when I am an old lady and say ‘this is the tree I planted.’”

And Henry spoke of how much he enjoyed planting trees at school. “It helps the planet a lot. Hopefully nobody ever cuts down all of our trees because trees are fantastic forever.”

Says Trish Mersh: “I was very impressed by the children’s enthusiasm and knowledge. They explained to me how their tree planting would help in relation to climate change and biodiversity.”

The Burley Tree Project is working with the Burley Parish Council to promote tree planting in the local area.

Other themes pupils at Burley and Woodhead Primary - which is among the best primaries in the country according to the 2020 Sunday Times School Guide - are investigating are globalisation and interdependence, social justice and equity, power and governance, identity and diversity, peace and conflict and human rights.

“At year three level the children are really beginning to appreciate how things that happen across the globe are interlinked,” says Andrew. “They can see how planting trees has a positive impact on the environment, from a sustainability point of view.”

To further their work on deforestation the children are making lavender bags and selling them to raise money to buy an acre of rainforest, through the conservation charity the World Land Trust.

The school year was been “incredibly challenging” adds Andrew, but efforts made prior to lockdown to allow pupils to remain in school - such as working in bubbles, staggered break and dismissal times, splitting the week with different groups in school at different times, and deep cleaning in between - were a success.

“It has really strengthened our school community. We have a brilliant staff team who are all very dedicated, really lovely children and very supportive families.”