Mount Wise's, 'My Wacky Forest'
After being inspired by the work of Doctor Akira Miyawaki, Botanist and Professor, the inventor of the globally renowned Miyawaki Plantation Method, Steve decided to search for suitable land to build his idea.
'It was a match made in heaven. We put out a call to our community to support us in creating an outside learning space for our community to cherish and enjoy for years. Steve was interested in creating an urban forest. In February 2021, these two ideas came together and the start of an exciting journey of learning began'.
Helen Jennings, Head of School Mount Wise Community School
This idea has now been affectionally named, 'My Wacky Forest'. It aims to create Plymouth's Environmentalists of the future as well as creating a space for pupils and members of their family to come together, enjoy and learn. Steve Warren-Brown and Illustrator Steve Evans have now created a book that details their plans and the benefits of Doctor Miyawaki's plantation method.
So what is Miyawaki's Plantation Method?
Source of information below: https://urban-forests.com/miyawaki-method/
Dr. Miyawaki is a recipient of the 2006 Blue Planet Prize, which is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in ecology.
How will this school project evolve and when can pupils and community get involved?
This project is pretty organic. It has needed a vast amount of time and energy to just simply get it off the ground. Steve Warren-Brown of YGS Landscapes, is the brains behind the project. Steve, David Sammels (Executive Headteacher) and Helen Jennings (Head of School) had worked together previously on other school based projects, but never anything as environmentally sustainable or as pupil focused as this. David, Helen and school staff are excited about the prospect of investing new energy and life into an under used part of the school.
'As soon as we arrived at the school, we just knew we had to find a way to make something special for our community. Helen immediately put the feelers out to local businesses - we needed to find cash, can do attitudes and community support. Now the project is off the ground, we want to build a new space for community learning. We want to bring pupils to a space where they can study, sit and ponder, play and dream. A space where nature will do much of the teaching. A space where pupils will work collaboratively with their friends, try new experiences and explore Forest School types of sensory learning. The space will be accessible for all pupils and their families. It will certainly be a space where pupils will gravitate and those with complex learning needs, special needs and disabilities, can be included alongside friends of all ages. We wanted to find people who could help us turn our space into something that would last a lifetime. We wanted somewhere pupils would talk about and care about beyond their Primary experience. We wanted somewhere that helped us to add layers of curriculum opportunity for pupils and their families. Our Early Years pupils, from our two year olds upwards, will have daily access to their very own My Wacky Forest. We can already imagine the types of organic conversations that will take place. Imagine the dreams that are made there too.'
David Sammels Executive Headteacher | Helen Jennings Head of School
Both Steve and school have invited engagement from wider businesses and community members. They have worked hard to create a phased approach to developments. Regular volunteers, such as neighbours, Plymouth Albion Rugby Club and Grapevine Transport, have been generous with their time, working alongside staff and their families to get things moving.
Steve Warren-Brown has been influential throughout each phase and provided the overall vision for implementing his dream.
'I am incredibly excited that planting day is now so close. I am looking forward to children's reaction to this, which I hope is the first of many My Wacky Forests in Schools. Thank you to all the volunteers and to Dave Sammels, Duncan Baldie (Trust Premises Lead) and Helen Jennings for their continued trust, belief, vision and patience and for being part of this incredible journey.'
Steve Warren-Brown YGS Landscapes
To add a further educational aspect to Steve's idea, his My Wacky Forest books will be given to pupils at Mount Wise Community School. This will help them fully engage in the project, learn fun My Wacky Forest facts and journal what they notice as they use the space during curriculum and free time.
'Finally, a little teaser about the books, so timing in the idea that I wanted this to be environmentally beneficial, educational and FUN, so the children across the school will all be getting their own My Wacky Forest books'.
Steve Warren-Brown YGS Landscapes
So how is each phase going and what else still needs doing?
Phase One | During COVID 2019+
During this phase, Steve Warren-Brown had an idea. It was during COVID Lockdown where Steve started to formulate his ideas around My Wacky Forest. Every challenge also brings opportunity and COVID certainly spurred Steve on to build a plan to reach his goal to create My Wacky Forests.
Phase Two | February 2021
At this phase we simply bumped into each other and started chatting. Our paths crossed and the dream began. The school land was a sorry site. A relic of learning times gone by. Old green houses and untamed raised beds that required immediate attention. The land was completely overgrown and unloved. There was one beautiful red flower growing within the broken greenhouse. It spoke to us and said, 'Come give me some love.' It sang potential. At the point we met Steve, his idea was in its infancy. Things were looking up. Soil samples were taken. Staff were met with and the idea began to grow. The long term benefits to pupils and the local environment were becoming obvious to all. We began looking ahead with a renewed sense of excitement. The land remained at the heart of our outdoor school space and was beautifully orientated. It desperately needed some vision, some investment, some TLC.
Phase Three | February 2022
This is where we simply had to get out there and start clearing the earth. It was hard graft. We relied upon volunteers to come in over the the holidays. Staff and families joined a crew of volunteer skilled labour. The weather was kind to us. We enjoyed every second fulled by pasties and coffee from the local sea flagged coffee shop, 'Cafe Roma'. We must add, that the athletes from Plymouth Albion, did not touch the pasties. A big thank you to all our supporters and volunteers.
Phase Four | February 2022
At this stage we were continuing to clear the land, but also now adding improved soil and laying out the design features. This again relied on volunteers to muck in as well as labour with skills to deliver soil, take away further waste and Jimmy The Digger Driver was back to make play of all the heavy lifting and shifting. It was a period where we al realised again that kindness is the coolest thing. A big thank you to all our supporters and volunteers.
'I am over 70 years old. My children have grown up and become something. I have driven a digger since I was a teenager. I have never stopped. Even though I am now retired, I still want to lend a hand and give something back to help the youngsters out there.'
Jimmy The Digger Driver
Volunteered to dig all day and without a single penny of pay
Phase Five March 2022+
At this stage we still need volunteers. On 31st March, we invited our community into school to plant our Wacky Forest and become part of our plans.
Find out more here:
We had the most wonderful day and would like to thank everyone who came into school and got involved. The day marked a chance to welcome parents into school for the first time in ages. COVID was still with us, and although we took precautions, for once, we didn't feel like COVID dictated how we went about our Wacky Forest work. All of this work with community was taken outside. It was a beautiful day and the sun shone bright all day. Our Wacky Forest work was meant to be. Highlights can be viewed by clicking on the image and video link below and press coverage can be viewed by clicking here.
Phase Six April 2022+
At this stage we still need volunteers. If you would like to support us, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you. We can't wait to open the space for community to enjoy. Our Micro Forest School curriculum will take off. We would also like to get going with creating our organically produced vegetables, herbs and flowers. We need an allotment created. Research, funding, support and case studies are welcomed.
Phase Seven 2022+
At this stage we still need volunteers. If you would like to support us, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you. Research, funding, support and case studies are welcomed.
From all of us at Mount Wise, a huge thank you to you all. Your kindness has brought our community a new legacy of learning as well as improving the prospects for a brighter future and healthier global environment. Believe you can...
Drew & Co
A local company who have provided a significant amount of funding. Every project needs cash as well as goodwill, and Drew & Co have kindly offered us both. Their support has been huge for us to move this project forward.
Grapevine - The Transport Company (gave more time on site than anyone). Co-ordinated the project onsite and brought in more materials, funding and support than we could ever have imagined. A self selected project Manager with a heart of gold. With his constant Can Do outlook on life, there doesn't seem to be anything that Nigel can't sort. This especially relates to networking support and transporting materials to and from any destination.
Steve Warren-Brown and YGS Team
YGS Landscapes. Steve was the vision. He gave his expertise to begin creating Plymouth's first ever Micro Forest. We are proud that he chose Mount Wise Community School. Steve continuously provided free skilled labour, funding, equipment and materials. His support was beyond our expectation. A kind leader of a local company and one with a plan to improve both the environment, but also our community learning spaces.
Tamar Fresh Saltash. A kind and generous chap who supported Mount Wise by providing labour and financial support. Without Dave and his team - we might not have got this project off the ground.
Jimmy the Digger Driver
A 76 Year old gentleman with a big heart. Jimmy dug all day everyday and just so that he could give back his time and expertise to help Mount Wise children. What a guy!
Big Skips. Big Skips can lift and shift anything, and they did and at a minutes notice. They have been with us throughout. Such tremendous support.
Tony Richards, Kurt and Will
Core Plumbing Solutions. These chaps gave their time and moved rubble, soil and chopped wood. They did all this with a smile. We are very grateful indeed.
Chris Bentley, Shek and Ramaz
Man Mountains from Plymouth Albion Rugby Club who gave up their time to lift and shift. They made light work of sheds, chipping, cleaning land and lifting our spirits. We wish we could have them with us in class everyday. True hero to our pupils.
Team Mount Wise Community School and Mayflower Community Academy
Staff and their families from both schools were onsite throughout to help carry our out vision to make a renewed place for community to learn. They gave up their free time to help us. We say thank you.
Premises Lead for The Learning Academies Trust. He signalled, shifted earth and ordered materials. A true critical friend of Mount Wise. Nothing would move ahead without Duncan liaising with our Trust, getting permission for work to begin and finding a way to deliver even during the busiest of days.
John Elliot - CBL Digger Hire
Without CBL we would still be shovelling earth now. John and his team have been kind beyond words.
Andy Botterill and Team
Millfields Inspired - A Social Enterprise group who provided so much support, sponsorship and expertise. Without them, we would certainly not have had the same level of investment.
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