Treading new ground

6th June 1997 at 01:00
Arts in the School Grounds. By Brian Keaney. Southgate Pounds 8.99

Create a School Wildlife Garden. London Wildlife Trust. 80 York Way, London N1 9AG Pounds 7.95 plus Pounds 1.20 postage

North Westminster School RTZ Geological Garden. By Eric Robinson and Jack Whitehead. Pounds 3 from Jack Whitehead, 55 Parliament Hill, London NW3 2TB

Much of what happens in school is quite bizarre, and yet goes on because it is established and unquestioned. A striking example of this is the way we leave our pupils, many of them very small, to amuse themselves on featureless windswept asphalt playgrounds for what amounts to several hours a week.

Gradually, though, things are changing. The pupils themselves are partly responsible. Give them a voice - in a school council, for example - and one of the first things they want to improve is the environment in which they have to spend their breaks and lunchtimes. They ask for seats, flower beds, natural areas and, above all, alternatives to (and protection from) mass anarchic football games.

Schools trying to respond by improving their grounds will, whatever their present plans, find useful ideas and ways into the problem in these publications.

Arts in the School Grounds helps pupils and teachers to see their surroundings as opportunities for colour and excitement. It is teeming with ideas, and the teacher who reads it over the weekend will come in on Monday morning eager to start on ephemeral sculpture, log circles, mobiles, sensory walks, stepping stones and totem poles. The book is well illustrated, highly practical and galvanisingly motivational.

Create a School Wildlife Garden is a pack of cards that provides all the information you need. There are teacher's guides, and lots of fact cards - how to make things such as a bird feeding station, a butterfly garden, a log pile.

North Westminster School's geological garden, described in a small book by Eric Robinson and Jack Whitehead, is a resource with several facets - scientific, geological, artistic. Set in the school grounds, the garden consists of an open space surrounded by three walls. These walls use a wide range of building materials, manufactured as well as natural. There is a yellow brick wall, one of Portland stone with granite panels, and a brick wall inset with many varieties of building stones and tiles.

The garden is meant to be "consulted like a library, used as a starting point for projects". A pupil wanting to know what a metamorphic (or an igneous or sedimentary) rock is like can visit the wall and see examples.

The garden is accessible from the street for visiting schools, and is adapted for wheelchairs.

These three books come from very different directions, and yet a school which was starting from scratch with its environment might well look at all of them, taking on board, perhaps, something of all three approaches.

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