This pile of soil is left over from various projects in the garden, such as digging out for flower beds and paths. The ‘normal’ thing to do would probably be to remove it from the site to keep everything tidy. However, I think of this heap as a bonus; I have used it to create a different micro-habitat to the rest of the garden. In particular I have left it uneven with holes that could be used by bumblebees to make their nests in the summer. It will also be a place where the grass will be allowed to grow long and hopefully wild flowers will flourish. However, it is not something that I would have gone out of my way to do; the material came my way and instead of thinking of it as a problem to be dealt with I treated it as a bonus. I believe that my garden will be better for this unlooked for resource.
In schools where budgets are tight and resources are limited I believe that when staff take this approach there is much to be gained. For example, in my previous school an old pine tree that was blown down in a storm was sawn into logs. Some were left on their side with slice taken off to make a flat surface for sitting on. Others were placed vertically and children loved jumping on them, from one to another.
The bottom picture also shows some children using one of the logs to make a ‘birds nest’, which they later transferred to one of the nearby trees. Smaller branches of the tree were shredded and were used to create a temporary path around our vegetable gardens.
This was a small school with an extremely tight budget, looking out for resources in this way enriched the children’s experience without costing any money. What unexpected materials have you been able to use in your school?