Chances are your school is already on it when it comes to encouraging its pupils to get outside and get their hands dirty. Maybe they even have a wildlife garden already.
If not, it doesn’t need to feel overwhelming to get started. In fact, you may be surprised to find there are already spaces ripe with potential. In which case, you can make creating the garden part of your pupils’ educational journey – get them to grow the plants from seed, then plant them outside together and watch the garden develop as you add water features, bug hotels and creature corners. It’s quite an exciting adventure!
We’ll be adding ‘How To’ guides over the coming weeks but here’s an initial check list of some of the features and activities you may want to consider including at your Bee Friendly School.
- Identify potential growing sites. Sounds obvious but look beyond the traditional – do you have metal signage posts, lamp posts or bins that could have snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells planted at the base to make micro bee-friendly borders? Are there any areas of grass that could be mown less frequently? Leaving lawns uncut allows bee-friendly clover to grow. Do you have any pollinator-friendly trees on site, where you could position bug hotels? And if you do already have flower beds, check that the plants in them are actually supportive of bees (as a general rule of thumb, single-flowered varieties are easier for pollinators to access, and richer in nectar and pollen, than flowers with double heads).
- Sow seeds. Now you’ve identified some growing space, set your children the task of creating their own toilet roll seedling pots then sowing them with sunflower seeds (did you know Cheerios are giving these away?) or flowering herbs like borage, mint and chives, to be planted out. These all cover ground fast and are packed with pollen.
- Put up bug hotels. Another hands-on activity for the kids. Download our guide to making your own bug hotel then get your pupils to each make their own ones – you’ll have multiple learning opportunities as you see which insects take up residence in which hotels.
- Establish a compost heap. You can fuel it with break-time leftover fruit peels. Composts not only provide you with a source of nutrient-rich fertiliser for your bee-friendly planting projects but also provide cosy nooks and crannies for slow worms, hedgehogs, beetles and more.
- Create a wildflower meadow. It doesn’t need to be of epic proportions. Got a grass verge at the entrance to the school? Or any strips of ground either side of school pathways? Or even some neglected window boxes? Expose the soil and scatter a wildflower seed mix (such as the one we have available in our shop), and then wait for the mix of cornflowers, daisies and poppies to attract bees, butterflies and myriad pollinators.
- Host a visit from a beekeeper. Contact your local branch of The British Beekeepers Association to find out who tends hives in your area and encourage them to come to the school to bring the magical world of bees to life. Perhaps they even have an observation hive that they could bring or they might even consider establishing a beehive within school grounds.
- Put up signage. What’s the point in doing all this hard work if you don’t shout about your success story! The children could design their own posters, which could be put up around the school and at key growing sites to explain why you’ve done what you’ve done and to share ways in which other pupils can do their bit.