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Award-winning youngster shows how nature can inspire education

Charlotte is the first ever winner of a Sapling Award. (Photo: Donna Callaghan)
Charlotte is the first ever winner of a Sapling Award. (Photo: Donna Callaghan)

At this year’s Woodland Trust Volunteer of the Year Awards, the first ever Sapling Award for a young volunteer went to Charlotte O’Donnell, a year 2 pupil from Percy Main Primary School.

Charlotte was part of a school-wide effort to gain the platinum award on our Green Tree Schools Award. To put this into context, over 9,500 schools are registered on the award and only 65 schools have reached the distinguished platinum level.

To achieve this amazing feat, the school completed a range of environmental activities, including ordering and planting free tree packs from us. Pupils also had to complete two platinum award challenges – a woodland perspective, which asks children to draw or photograph a wood from a different perspective, and a wild trail, which encourages pupils to create and map personal trails around a local wood.

Going above and beyond

As well as being part of the wider effort to achieve the platinum award, Charlotte went above and beyond with developing her and other pupils’ love for woods and trees. She planted bluebells in the forest school garden, as well as taking the leftover bulbs home to plant with her dad.

Charlotte also created a school newspaper, The Nature News. She and her classmates became reporters at break time and interviewed staff as well as pupils. The interviews were used to highlight what everyone enjoyed about nature and their school environment.

Karen Brownrigg, the higher-level teaching assistant who nominated Charlotte, said: “Charlotte has been instrumental in lots of ways to help other children with the Green Tree Schools Award. She spent a lot of time in the forest school garden and she was always bonding with nature. That is why she is a worthy winner of the Sapling Award.”

Wood Wise magazine explains the benefits of incorporating nature in education.

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The Green Tree Schools Award inspires children to connect with nature. (Photo: Michael Heffernan/WTML)
The Green Tree Schools Award inspires children to connect with nature. (Photo: Michael Heffernan/WTML)

The green school revolution

Through the Green Tree Schools Award programme, we work with schools and nurseries across the UK, encouraging outdoor learning and helping teachers inspire their pupils about trees, woods and wildlife.

There are currently over 9,500 schools and nurseries registered on the award scheme, which is free to join. The award will celebrate its tenth birthday this year, having made a positive impact on the lives of at least 2.8 million young people and teachers across the UK.

Charlotte’s story is a great example of how the Green Tree Schools Award has, and will continue to, inspire children of all ages, embedding a love for our woods and trees in a new generation.

How your school can get involved

Schools can register on the Green Tree Schools Award, access a wide range of curriculum linked activities and order their free tree packs from woodlandtrust.org.uk/schools.

Help your local school make a difference for people and nature.

Read about other schools that are taking learning outdoors.

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