Children from more than 30 primary schools were given hands-on experience of farming and the rural environment as The Englefield Estate hosted its 26th annual Schools Days in beautiful sunshine last week. (June 14-15).
Over 1,500 Key Stage 2 children and 200 school staff and helpers learned about work carried out on the Berkshire estate including forestry, farming, horticulture, construction and wildlife conservation.
Staff from departments across the Estate, were joined by experts from other organisations, as the grounds at Englefield were transformed into an outdoor classroom. Students worked with carpenters to build tree sparrow nest boxes, learned how wheat is grown and turned into flour and planned a water supply system.
Other organisations participating included the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading and District Beekeeping Association, Small Fire Big Adventure, Butterfly Conservation and the Berkshire Moth Group, Action for the River Kennet (ARK), the archaeology department at Reading University, Hampshire Countryside Service, Thames Water, Berkshire Bat Rescue and the Angling Trust Reel Education.
Pupils also learnt from experts from the Pang Valley Flood Forum, Newbury and District Agricultural Society, Life’s Little Bugs, Pangbourne College, HBH Farming and the John Simonds Trust.
Englefield’s Education and Environment Officer Dr Liz Mattison said the two days had been a huge success. “Our staff have a great time introducing children to their work, from looking after woodland to maintaining Victorian houses and we have a wonderful range of organisations and volunteers who help us to give children a unique day of hands-on learning about sustainability.
"All the activities children take part in are based on work and life at Englefield and in rural areas generally, learning is directly linked to the National Curriculum whilst reflecting real world situations and decisions.”
School staff were provided with maps and a carefully organised itinerary to guide them around the Estate so their pupils could visit all the displays and interactive demonstrations.
Siobhan Malcolm of the Woodland Park School, Maidenhead, which has its own school Eco Committee, said afterwards that the event had been enjoyed by all the children, and those who attended will be leading an assembly later this term to share their learning with the rest of the school.
She said: “All the workshops we attended were very interesting and engaging for all our children. They learnt so much, the event was so well organised, and it gave us so many ideas for future projects for our Eco Committee.”
Englefield’s Countryside Days for Schools were launched in 1997 to give children a positive experience in a rural environment and see the wide range of work and other activities that take place in the countryside.
The event has strengthened links with the national curriculum over the years and become an important occasion for children from schools across Berkshire to gain knowledge about the countryside as well as enjoy a day out with their school friends and teachers.
Images courtesy of Paul Myles.