Despite a very chilly morning and promise of rain forecast, nine excited faces greeted us on Tuesday at Miers Court Primary School. The students were embarking on the first of their Finding Futures trips out of school to “Play Their Part” in the local community. Our destination: Riverside Country Park in Kent, a lovely local park and important coastal wildlife habitat.
On arrival we were greeted by the head park ranger, Stuart and his colleagues who told us a bit about the park and quizzed us on how big the territory was: 210 football pitches (around 220 acres)! With only 3 staff maintaining this area, the rangers shared with us the importance of volunteers' help at the site.
The children’s first task was to create some ‘dead hedges’ - barriers made of twigs and foliage woven between an existing wooden fence to block out the holes. This protects specific areas from larger animals such as dogs and deer, whilst letting smaller creatures through, as well as providing important wildlife habitat.
The kids paired off and got stuck in straight away. They had to select the right pieces of wood, prune them where necessary, weave branches together and keep pushing it down to form a tight barrier, and finally filling in any gaps with foliage. It was truly a team effort, with everyone enthusiastically mucking in and helping one other use the loppers to prune the branches. The students took real pride in their work and readily lent each other a hand when they’d finished their own section.
The park rangers were very impressed with the students commitment, energy, enthusiasm and speed, and had to dash off several times to get more wood! The end result was brilliant; the students were rightly proud of their achievement, the rangers thrilled with a job well done. They invited the students to bring their family to come and inspect the work for themselves the next time they visit.
After a quick lunch, we got back to business with an orienteering session. The group divided into girls versus boys. They were given a park map and some coordinates to find around the grounds, with the group the quickest to return to be crowned the winners. Having no problem finding the coordinates, the boys were pretty confident of their victory, until they saw the girls running back ahead of them! After a sprint finish, which it seemed the girls had won, a draw was awarded since, in the dash to the line, the girls had managed to leave their rangers behind…
Still brimming with energy, the students had a well-deserved playtime in the excellent playground, before it was time to head back to school. At the debrief, the students agreed that the weaving was the highlight of the day. Reflecting on their experience, the students spoke of feeling more confident in their ability to try something new. They enjoyed working in a team, communicating and negotiating with each other where necessary, as well as gaining a feeling of pride and accomplishment that they had made a meaningful contribution through their work.
An excellent time was had by all, and the children were enthusiastic about finding more opportunities for volunteering in the future. One of the students summed it up: “This has been the best day… I can’t wait until the PGL [Into the Wild] weekend!”
- Caroline Elias, Yes Futures Coach