Today, if spring seems to have sprung a little more emphatically into life, it may not be down to the effects of our nationwide drought so much as National School Grounds Day.
More than 1,700 schools will be participating in this event, which is run by the environmental charity Learning Through Landscapes (LTL). It is a chance for schools to preen their individual patch of turf and show off their horticultural prowess. It is also, according to LTL, the best way to raise environmental awareness in schools.
All political parties are united in their support for this initiative: "National School Grounds Day is an excellent project," says Tony Blair. "The areas in which children learn and play are of great importance to their development."
Paddy Ashdown feels that schools should "look closely at how their grounds can be used generally to supplement more traditional book-based learning", while John Major agrees that all pupils should "have access to an area which allows them to take part in a variety of educational and recreational activities. "
Schools across the country will be engaged in a variety of linked schemes, projects and activities which have at their heart the celebration of the outdoor classroom. Whether it is a couple of window boxes or a fully-fledged wildlife garden, complete with pond, there is something that can be nurtured and discovered by everyone.
LTL's programme of nationwide activities reveals, for example, that St Michael's Primary School in Reading is surveying and planning a piece of ground to be used as a butterfly garden; while Ferney Lee School in Lancashire will be holding a school dig, digging in trees and plants and building dry stone walls. There will also be a flurry of pond dipping, tree dressing, bug hunting and even bat box building as school environs everywhere become a focus for nature studies.
A year's membership of LTL costs Pounds 15, which brings information about funding, newsletters, hints about developing school grounds, news of other projects, promotional material, loaned video and telephone advice link.
Details: Jennie Day, LTL, Third Floor, Southside Offices, The Law Courts, Winchester SO23 9DL. Tel: 01962 846258. E-mail: email@example.com The Wildlife Trusts have also been staunch campaigners for cultivating school grounds and the London branch has launched a new resource called Create a School Wildlife Garden.
Inner cities have particular problems when it comes to creating a verdant environment for children to play and learn in and it is important that schools here make special efforts to go green. This pack is designed to help children become involved in changing their school grounds, from creating wildlife habitats for native species to using a wildlife garden. It contains a laminated plan for designing the garden, a teacher's guide, fact cards, suggestions for cross-curricular links and has full-colour illustrations of different habitats.
The pack costs Pounds 7.95 plus Pounds 1.20 pp, from The London Wildlife Trust, Central Office, 80 York Way, London N1 9AG. Tel: 0171 278 6612