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Case Study: Jodi Winter and EcoPark

Posted: Tuesday 4th July 2017 by evaphillips

The difference EcoPark makes is more than numbers of children learning about wildlife. Jodi Winter, Outdoor Learning Mentor at St Benedict's Primary School, Small Heath, explains why...

Jodi Winter has an extraordinary job. She works in an inner city primary school in one of the most deprived areas of the UK. The area it sits in has one of the highest indices of deprivation in the country, including second highest unemployment rates nationally. The area is built up with small terraced houses with very little green space, including at the primary school. Yet Jodi is employed as an Outdoor Learning Mentor.

The previous head teacher recognised the importance of nature and outside for the children in her care and created the post, determined that every child should have access to outdoor learning. The current head teacher has continued to support and develop environmental learning at St Benedict's. Now Jodi teaches the children to grow fruit and vegetables which they sell to families cheaply, and brings them to EcoPark, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country’s’ Environment Centre.

Pond dipping is a favourite activity with local children who visit with schools and as part of our holiday programmeEach Friday Jodi accompanies a class on the short walk to EcoPark where, thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Guy Belding, the Trust’s Education Officer, introduces them to pond dipping, mini-beast hunts, raft making and fruit picking, all designed to support the curriculum and learn through discovering and exploring nature. Some pupils in the Gifted and Talented group have been able to experience fire lighting challenges – and toasted bread spread with the jam made from the raspberries and strawberries they grew themselves.

Jodi tells me the children especially enjoy building Elf Houses in the woods then gathering together for a story. The school has 469 pupils aged 4-7, many of them are learning English as a second language which can make classroom learning more stressful for them. Many children are vulnerable, some have limited language, a few have selective mutism.

Coming to EcoPark, Jodi tells me, gives them a chance to breath and build relationships with each other, it takes the pressure off language. ‘They copy and learn from each other here, I can see their language skills picking up, then that helps them learn when they get back to class’.

local children get hands on with local wildlifeGuy Belding is described as ‘Amazing, the children love him, he is so patient, especially with children who have special educational needs’. The Trust’s Education Officers enthusiasm and knowledge are an essential part of the experience. Children need to have a positive experience with nature to value it, hard in a city where many families don’t have opportunities to go far as public transport prices are prohibitive. ‘We have to help children understand that we are responsible for the planet, and we can’t do that if they don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to nature. We need to teach them how to make choices, and that trees are as important as technology’.

Read more about how support from players of People's Postcode Lottery helps us connect children to nature and create spaces for wildlife to thrive across Birmingham and the Black Country here

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