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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Monday 22nd December, 2014

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Students Create a Wildlife Haven at the World Owl Trust

Here at Muncaster an amazing project has been evolving on a joint project with Ulverston Victoria High School’s students working on the Award Scheme, Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) Youth Award Course and the World Owl Trust to create Wildlife Garden and Pond as a haven for natural plants and wildlife to thrive and develop a natural habitat environment. This Project is being led by Hilary Lange, the UK Conservation Officer for the World Owl Trust and Rebecca Kiggins, Conservation Assistant in conjunction with teacher Grahame Smith, a Trustee of the World Owl Trust leading a group of students from Ulverston Victoria High School.

There is no place on this job for the work shy and if you are looking for grafters, look no further than these students, and the hard work of the 15 and 16 year old’s has paid off as they have been snapped up for local apprenticeships with local firms and have secured places on the college courses of their choice. It’s clear that a good work ethic has been installed by Grahame and the work undertaken already has transformed these pond and garden areas already into the beginnings of a conservation wildlife haven.

The group along with staff from the World Owl Trust have worked together many times over several years and have been working on this project now since February. After receiving their instructions from Hilary Lange the group set about the work with enthusiasm and are always happy to volunteer when another student, teacher or Trust officer. The work undertaken covered a wide variety of tasks with one group marking out areas where specialist plants need protecting in order that they are not damaged or removed whilst others are digging up the prolifically smelly skunk cabbage. Others have their waders on and are in the pond with shovels clearing the silt to allow water to flow freely, as another group set work building an island for wildlife. All the students are aware that their work is creating a habitat for some rare species including the netted carpet moth which one of Britain’s most endangered moths which feeds on yellow balsam which grows at Muncaster.

Ulverston Victoria High
Ulverston Victoria High

Back at school the students must then use examples of the project for their portfolios, showing how they are improving their own learning, communication skills, problem solving and working with others. Grahame Smith said: “This is a long term project, which will probably take two years to complete, it is a rolling programme. It gives the students good communication and team work skills and better awareness of the area they live in, I just think it is marvellous what they achieve here. They know they are here to work, it gives them a sense of achievement and they can say “I did that sir” or “I built that sir”, and they are chuffed about it.”

Hilary Lange said “They have done a fantastic job so far, they all get stuck in and work very hard and good teamwork is involved. They take a lot of pride in their work and we could not have done this area without their help.”

The ASDAN course is designed to prepare students for life after school and the world of work. It is focused for students who are more focused based and would benefit from this route rather than the traditional curriculum. As Grahame say’s the students often find it a harsh reality when they first come on the ASDAN course, but they are gaining skills and opportunities which can open doors. Grahame explains that the students will be challenged and they are trusted to use tools which they have learnt to use on the college courses in different environments.

The students clearly enjoy the work, Daniel Livesey, 15, said “I've been in the pond moving silt today. I am really enjoying this project and hope the students carry on next year doing a good job on it.” Daniel said he has taken a lot from the ASDAN course, “I’ve gained confidence and am much better at team-work and meeting new people and the teachers have been really good.” It is clear that Grahame’s fair but firm approach has created a strong team and work ethic and a mutual respect has grown between Mr Smith, teaching assistants Sheila Attard and Carol Birkett and the students.

Hilary Lange With Ulverston Victoria High
Hilary Lange With Ulverston Victoria High

Another student will be starting work with Travis Perkins in September doing an apprenticeship and all the students talk about their futures with confidence. Grahame Smith said “I’m delighted for them. It is the highlight for me when they say “sir I’ve got into college” or onto an apprenticeship.”

Grahame Smith won a prestigious Sinnot Fellowship for his outreach work at school. The award recognised the inspirational work he does creating sustained links between students and businesses and organisations to give students across Ulverston Victoria High School tangible and transferable skills and raise their aspirations. Only 15 teachers nationally have been awarded the fellowship, set up in memory of educationalist Steve Sinnot.

We here at the World Owl Trust would like to thank all the Grahame his assistants and especially all the students from Ulverston for their committed work so far on this project. We here plenty of criticism of young people today but here is a group of young people working hard on a very worthwhile and educational environmental project and furthering their own future prospects at the same time and they and Grahame Smith are to be congratulated on their efforts. One final point on this, the students do not confine themselves to the physical side of the project, they raise funds for the project as if their lives depended on it. Creating a “Pile of Pennies” they raised £730, persuaded Travis Perkins to supply equipments and materials and many other efforts to make this project a success, and once again a big thank you for all your work.

Cheque From Ulverston Victoria High
Cheque From Ulverston Victoria High

This is a large and ongoing project creating a wildlife garden and pond to show just how creating a habitat to sustain all manner of wildlife and fauna can be as beautiful, if not more than an ordinary garden. In addition to the benefits these students are deriving from this projects the garden will be used as part of our educational programme to highlight how bio diversity and habitat creation works . Thousands of schoolchildren and adults will benefit from this project and will hopefully learn more about how our environment works. Like everything in life how big this project becomes and how fast it progresses depends on how quickly we can raise the funds to develop the garden and pond. We have applied for grants and the students of Ulverston High are right behind the project as well, however if you would like to contribute towards the project all donations small or large would be welcome or if you know of any business who would like to Sponsor the garden please get in touch with us. I will be setting up a dedicated page for donations in the next few weeks but in the meantime they can be sent to us here at the World Owl Trust marked for the Wildlife Garden Project and I will make sure the money is used for this project. Sponsorship can come in many forms from the whole project to paths, bridges, plants and bird boxes and any help will be welcome for this special project. Thanks.

Andy Chafe

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