Primary school showcased at UN Climate Conference after achieving carbon neutrality

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Mr Knight stands with members of the Eco Team in the school's biodome. Picture: Jess Warren

A BOROUGH school have been showcased at the UN Climate Conference in Madrid for their commitment to the environment.

Shinfield St Mary’s Junior School have recently been awarded carbon neutral gold status by One Carbon World — charity and global resource partner of the United Nations Climate Neutral Now initiative. 

As a result, the hard work of the school pupils and staff was showcased at the UN Climate Conference in Madrid this week. This includes videos and photos from the school. 

Since 2012, Shinfield St Mary’s have gradually become greener, all with the help of Matt Knight — year 6 teacher and the school’s ecology and science coordinator. 

The school now have a biodome where the children can plant fruits and vegetables in their raised beds. 

Outside the biodome is an outdoor fish tank. The water is fed into the raised beds and the waste produced by the fish is used as feed for the growing the plants inside.

Gia, head gardener and year 6 pupil explained her role in the school. 

“I look after the plans in the school, checking on them once a day,” she said. “I love gardening and planting, I do gardening at home too.”

Mr Knight explained that there are four eco-teams in the school made up of more than 100 pupils, and Gia is in charge of them all.  

Eco deputy, Josh is also in year six. 

“We sell all the food we grow, and give the money to Launchpad,” he explained. 

The school grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Their newest endeavour was chillies, which are being grown in the biodome. Each class have two raised beds — one outside and one in the biodome — this allows the classes to choose what foods they want to grow. 

The raised beds are used by the children, who decide on what crops they would like to grow. Picture: Jess Warren

Also in the school grounds are free-range chickens. Eggs collected from the hens are used in school meals, as well as any other surplus fruit and vegetables.

Last week the school enjoyed an apple and blackberry crumble from their own crop.

Josh also has another important job being part of the eco team. Every two weeks, he helps empty the food waste bin in the playground and take the contents to the composter. This is one of the many ways the school has become carbon neutral.

Each year group has its own sustainable project to work on throughout the academic year. The year six children have the biggest challenge on their hands, building a pond to increase biodiversity in the school. 

“We’ve got to make sure that small and big insects and animals can get in and out of the pond,” said Josh. 

Gia added: “We might use a log so that things like hedgehogs can climb out if they get stuck.”

Year fives are busy building a butterfly and bee garden, year fours are collecting plastic bottles to build a greenhouse out of them, and the year three pupils are building a rainbow, sensory garden. 

With sustainability spread across all year groups, the wisdom of the young gardeners is astounding.

“Not one school can help the whole world,” explained Josh. “Other schools could do something too.”

“Our teachers also avoid using too much paper and plastic too,” added Gia. 

Josh explained that he loves watching David Attenborough and said: “People need to realise where their plastic goes.”

“Attenborough is an awesome guy,” added Mr Knight. “I’ve definitely been inspired by him.” 

The school are also currently planting 200 trees, and are due to have solar panels and wind turbines installed on their roof soon. 

When Wokingham Borough Council declared a climate emergency in September, the borough appointed a climate emergency officer. They are due to visit the Shinfield St Mary’s and inform other local schools on their carbon neutrality schemes in place. 

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