Pupils take a natural approach to biodiversity

Staff and students from Girvan Academy get in touch with nature at Nestle Girvan's biodiversity site.
Staff and students from Girvan Academy get in touch with nature at Nestle Girvan's biodiversity site.

GIRVAN Academy pupils are friends of the earth indeed as they prepare to design a designated biodiversity site.

The teenage population of the Girvan school have been commissioned by Nestle Girvan to transform seven acres of unused land surrounding their factory site into a wildlife wonderland.

Based at Grangestone Industrial Estate to the north of the town, Nestle’s Girvan plant enjoys some spectacular Carrick views - a constant reminder of the green commitments that factory spokespeople say have become their “mantra”.

And two years since Girvan Academy’s first involvement with the project - when Academy pupils and teachers teamed up with Nestle employees to plant 850 indigenous trees - pupils’ plans for the site are growing fast.

Links to curriculum areas - including science, biology, mathematics, PE, and art - are self-evident, and it is hoped the site could also be used for extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award in future.

But work on student-generated ideas for the land has already begun in some school departments, with Technical & Design classes engaged to make bird boxes and markers for a butterfly counting trail, which will be part of the UK-wide Butterfly Conservation monitoring programme.

Other ideas include the construction of a bird-watching hut; laying hedgehog boxes; having seating/viewing benches; and creating an organic musical instrument trail. Pupils are currently in the process of working with Nestle to shortlist those they want to progress.

But the participants are working around the needs of some rather unusual inhabitants. The brownfield site is home to a group of rescued ponies owned by a local vet!

Girvan Academy’s commitment to “greening” however does not stop at encouraging biodiversity with their innovative designs.

The school have received funding to purchase bicycles to allow pupils to cycle to the site, and are looking to introduce a cycle path from the school on The Avenue.

And Nestle will be keeping up their side of the bargain too with their two on-site portacabin classrooms, donated by a local contractor, to be powered by a small wind turbine.

Nestle Girvan’s communication coordinator, Emma Gilchrist, who regularly visits the site with her colleague, dayshift operator Michael Ceates, said the project has “snowballed” since Girvan Academy were first approached in 2011.

“It’s worth all the hard work organising the logistics of having 20 school kids on site when we see how much they enjoy their time here,” she said.

“Seeing the pupils get stuck into the planting activities and taking part so enthusiastically is really rewarding.”

Girvan Academy headteacher, Allan Rattray, added: “Our pupils are very committed to protecting and improving our environment. The valuable work that the students will carry out on the unused land will improve the area now and for the future.”