Student volunteers scoop award for school project

25 May 2010

UCL student volunteer at St Michael's C of E School

A group of student volunteers from UCL have won an award for their contribution to an environmental education project at an inner-city school.

The seven-strong team have been working in collaboration with charity Roots & Shoots at St Michael's Church of England School in Camden.

Roots & Shoots runs an education programme guided by the founding principles of Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, environmentalist and humanitarian.

The charity encourages children to implement practical and positive change for people, animals and the environment by providing teachers with free resources and activities.

Two years ago final year UCL Zoology student Jessica French approached Roots & Shoots to set up a collaboration involving one-off workshops in schools around London.

The UCL Roots & Shoots team started planning lessons, making resources and contacting local schools in September 2009.

Earlier this year the team ran their first interactive workshop at St Michael's – and since then they have worked with primary pupils between the age of five and 11, covering topics ranging from the wonder of water to carbon footprints and recycling to the exotic pet trade.

With funding from the UCL Union Volunteering Services Unit (VSU), the team helped the school's pupils establish their own vegetable garden, and also collaborated with the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology to bring examples of the museum's natural history collection into the classroom.

Now the team's hard work has been rewarded with the charity's Spring Term Gold Award for the most outstanding contribution to Roots & Shoots of all the schools in England.

Jessica French's time at UCL is drawing to a close, but the charity has been so impressed with her contribution it has invited her to set up similar projects at other universities.

She said: “Children are our future. Having the opportunity to share the beauty of our planet and the importance of preserving it with the next generation has been an incredible, heart-warming experience. The VSU was pivotal in the success of the project and I'm deeply grateful for their support.

”I can only hope that other universities will be equally open and receptive to our ideas. Perhaps then my dream of creating a national network of student ambassadors for the environment may become a reality!“

Bruce Russell, head of science and Key Stage 2 at St Michael's, said pupils had enjoyed the vibrant and stimulating activities, and contact with the student volunteers had raised their aspirations.

He added: “Overall I thought the program was creative and enriching, well run and engaging for the children. It moved their learning and understanding of the world around us forward and gave them a desire to learn more.“

The partnership between UCL and Roots & Shoots, which is the running for the new VSU Innovation Programme of the Year award, will continue at St Michael's next year under the direction of co-project leader Luke Penketh.

For more information about Roots & Shoots or the VSU, follow the links above.

Image: A student volunteer shows a specimen from the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology to pupils at St Michael's Church of England School


Related stories:
Black and minority students campaign award
Students win bursaries for innovative instruments
Take part in the UCL Student Barometer
UCL's Volunteering Services Unit on YouTube