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Pupils join forces on the ground

Green shoots are cropping up at schools across the UK, thanks to young conservationists. Jo Hurst reports

MOVE aside Alan Titchmarsh ... school pupils are taking up the conservation challenge, bringing green shoots of recovery to their school grounds.

But for once TV's top gardener will not mind being upstaged one bit. All over the UK, pupils are taking part in 75 projects which encourage them to look after their school environment.

They are involved in the Henry Doubleday Research Association Organic Network for Schools initiative, which encourages them to look after community allotments, conserve wildlife and grow organic vegetables to sell at local shops.

At Grovelands primary school in Halesham, East Sussex, pupils are working on an historical garden, planting the same kind of vegetables that were planted during the Second World War when the public were encouraged to dig for victory.

John Clemence, the school's environmental co-ordinator, said: "Nowadays neither children nor adults are well-informed about where food comes from and I think we all need to find out more about it. Growing and tending to our own is one way of doing this."

He likes the fact that the vegetable garden is an ongoing project and said:

"Too often in education, students pick something up, study it for a while and then never go back to it."

At Oliver Quibell school near ottingham, pupils are growing a range of vegetables and ornamental flowers at a local allotment. And at Finborough, a private school in Suffolk, they are restoring a pond. It will be filled with oxygenating weed and will be a habitat for frogs and newts.

Andrew Moore, 12, a pupil at Finborough, said: "We are clearing the old pond which is full of crested newts and we are cutting down nettles and planting bulbs.

"We are hoping to create a user-friendly wildlife pond and to get more habitats. We spotted a moorhen's nest which is good to see and we're aiming to let more wild flowers have a chance to grow there."

Pippa Greenwood, gardening writer and broadcaster, said: "It's essential that every child is encouraged to be interested in the world in which we live and in particular our environment.

"It would be fantastic if every British schoolchild was involved in a gardening or conservation project of some sort, with a particular focus on organic gardening.

"Most children I know are fascinated by the subject, so it's a logical step that they would want to get involved on a more practical level at school.

"Teachers and parents are to be congratulated for encouraging this trend. The knowledge that children now have definitely shows that learning about the natural habitat that surrounds us is definitely a much bigger part of the curriculum these days."

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