Monday, 10 August 2020

Joint winners named of schools environmental science accolade

Joint winners named of schools environmental science accolade

RUPERT House School and St Mary’s Preparatory School in Henley are the joint winners of this year’s environmental science competition.

The contest for schools in the town was organised by the campaign group Greener Henley to encourage children to think about their environment.

Patrick Fleming, who co-ordinates the competition, had informed the schools that the usual projects were not expected in light of the coronavirus pandemic but their work would be assessed instead.

Rupert House and St Mary’s each received £150 as a prize and they will be presented with fruit trees.

Mr Fleming ran a virtual presentation to announce the winners and showcase some of the pupils’ work. It was attended by the Mayor of Henley, Ken Arlett, judges Maureen Smith and Katrina Judge, and staff and children from both schools.

The judges were assessing the pupils’ science, environmental considerations, their engagement and engagement with families and the wider community.

Pupils at Rupert House School, in Bell Street, impressed with their ideas, which included a proposal to remove meat from the menu each Monday. It featured information about the impact of livestock production, revealing an area of rainforest the size of 100 football pitches is cut down every hour to provide space for grazing cattle.

The children also grew their own vegetables, which was co-ordinated by head of science Fleur Wells.

Headteacher Clare Lynas said: “It was fantastic news that the children could be back in school from the beginning of June and they really had a terrific time creating their work. It was a great success and we’re delighted to win.”

Pupils at St Mary’s, in St Andrew’s Road, impressed the judges with their research into installing electric vehicle charging points in Henley.

The pupils in year 6 looked at the practicalities of promoting the use of electric vehicles and the benefits. They suggested charging points could be installed in the station car park for commuters and looked at the disadvantages of electric vehicles, including short battery life and the high price of electricity.

The whole school was involved and developed ideas despite the coronavirus lockdown. Head of science Linda Wild said: “I am really proud of our children and all the hard work that they put into their science work this term.

“The older children have enjoyed finding out more about quite complex issues such as how electric vehicle charging stations work and designing their own.

“The younger year groups have learned about topics including pollination, the design of nature reserves and oil pollution in the marine environment.

“The children have also shared their observations on how their local environment has changed during lockdown and their own hands-on experiences of getting involved in growing their own fruit and vegetables. We will look forward to sharing our trophy with joint winners Rupert House School.”

The winners have been invited to visit the Mayor of Henley, Ken Arlett, at the town hall in the autumn.

Councillor Arlett said: “The judges were most impressed by the breadth of topics covered. I should thank the teachers that helped co-ordinate the children’s efforts through the lockdown. Items such as electric vehicle charging, grow your own vegetables and oil slicks were all included. The imagination of the children in their presentation was there for all to see.”

Mr Fleming was among the judges and explained that the winners were equally impressive.

He said: “The work was exceptional. They did really well and covered a broad range of topics, all with relevance to the environment, and it showed their ingenuity.”

The competition has been running for nine years but normally has more entries.

Mr Fleming said: “When we were going towards lockdown I approached each of the schools to explain that this year’s entry doesn’t have to be a project.

“In the end, what we got from both schools was very varied. The children had been working from home during lockdown and it showed what they were achieving without having to come into school.

“I was happy to announce that the three members of the judging panel had independently come up with equal marks for both schools so we awarded a joint first prize to both schools.”

Last year, pupils at Valley Road Primary School won first prize for their project encouraging people to use less plastic.

They investigated the dangers posed by plastic pollution and produced a display outlining potential solutions featuring a toy turtle “trapped” in fragments of plastic.

It also explained how long some plastic items take to decay, from plastic bags, which typically take 20 years, to mineral water bottles, which can take up to 450.

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