Three things about project planning:

1. Don’t assume schools and community members speak the same language. Spend time clarifying the project remit and expectations of each participant. Be as clear about what is within remit and what is not.

Gantt chart

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2. Have an action plan. I drew up a Gantt chart so we had clarity about key actions and events and who had responsibility for them. This was important because some seed needed to be vernalised and a bee swarm wasn’t going to wait for us to find a gap in the timetable. Having the Headteacher at the first planning meeting meant decisions could be made on the spot: invaluable.

3. Have clarity about what you want to learn from the project and what you want children to learn. There will be all sorts of incidental outcomes but exploring desired impact at the start helps you plan activities. In hindsight, for example, we realised that this would have been a fantastic opportunity to deliver Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) because the children encountered so many interesting people with fascinating careers. I wish now we had given everyone five minutes to explain how they ended up doing their current job.

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Broomley Bees meadow project

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Three things to get the meadow started:

1. Test the soil – it needs to be poor quality. The children loved doing ph tests and quadrant surveys.

2. Prepare the ground – clear it, weed it and remove as much good soil as possible. This is the best physical exercise I get in a year! Think creatively about how to help children get fit – weave some P.E. related activity in here.

3. Do your plant homework – source seeds locally (ask for hay from nearby meadows and use those seeds). Ensure you plant some semi parasitic seeds such as yellow rattle and eye bright. Young children loved the idea of killer plants!

Broomley Bees

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Three things things that got us started:

1. The volunteer bee keepers trying hard to set up a bee keeping club at school but struggling to make an impact on the curriculum.

2. My plans to plant a hay meadow in my garden and my desire to learn more about Project Based Learning.

3. Mr Moore’s desire to integrate the bee work into the curriculum while developing his teaching and pupils learning and build community partnerships.

Bringing these three things together motivated me to get the meadow started thus creating a real life context in which children could develop their knowledge and understanding of the year four national curriculum. The planting of bee forage then provided a logic for studying bees and integrating it more fully into the curriculum. The work then provided a reason to draw community members and experts in and get the children out into their local community.

Broomley Bees meadow project

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Broomley First School’s year four class are now preparing for Middle School with the summer holidays well under way and their hay meadow soon in need of it’s first cut.

This retrospective blog records our experience of supporting a fabulous meadow planting project over the last eight months.

The project has been a collaboration between Mr Moore, the school’s year four teacher, the Broomley Bee team lead by Jilly Halliday along with Julie McGrane from Leading Learning. It has been a foray into Project Based Learning and a mechanism to embed extra curricular beekeeping into the core curriculum. The project has involved local community, an array of academics, experts and gardeners in planting a hay meadow to create forage for bees. Children have learned to soil sample, classify plant and insect species, work effectively in teams, understand life cycles, environmental decline, the impact of agricultural policy and so much more.

In this first entry we take a quick look at why we started the project back in January 2015.

Why we started the project – January 2015

While there has been an extraordinary amount of help and support which we will discuss in future entries there have been three key people who have led the project.
Jilly Halliday: An amazingly enthusiastic beekeeper and networker. Resolute in her desire to get children beekeeping Jilly and her team had already begun an extra-curricular club. With the challenges of safeguarding and a very busy school this was yet to be utilised as a learning opportunity for more children in school. Jilly was keen to ensure that, where appropriate, the beekeeping group had maximum impact and would be sustained over time.
Mr Moore: Really popular with his pupils, Mr Moore had nurtured a fantastic year four class with exemplary behaviour. Keen to enable children to take greater ownership of their learning as well as becoming more flexible in his teaching approach, Mr Moore wanted to explore the contribution PBL could make to achieving his aim.
Julie McGrane: As a secondary school teacher by trade I wanted to maintain my teaching skills and see if they would be as effective with younger children. Having observed lots of primary school lessons I was also convinced that many younger children could cope with more challenging work than they often receive. As director of Leading Learning I also wanted to develop my experience of PBL as part of our wider work.

In the next entry I will share how we got the project started.