Wroughton Solar park cash will help local community groups to shine

By Jessica Durston - 20 May 2022

  • Prime Theatre project will be one of the community projects helped by the WCF funds

    Prime Theatre project will be one of the community projects helped by the WCF funds

Almost £60,000 has been awarded to community groups and charities from grants generated by a solar park in Wroughton.

Images taken from the Chalet School project

Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Science Museums Group Wroughton Solar Park Community Benefit Fund, which distributes income from the solar park there, has awarded the money to three projects near the park.

An £18,000 grant will bring an overgrown and unused pond back to life at The Chalet School in Swindon so that its primary age pupils, who have special educational needs, can enjoy nature lessons outdoors.

Caroline Dent, a fundraising co-ordinator for the Brunel Special Education Needs Multi Academy Trust, which oversees the school and five others in the area, said the pond will be redeveloped with a viewing platform and an outdoor classroom to encourage pupils to get closer to the natural world.

She said: “Helena Knight the headteacher wanted to bring the pond back to life and she was really excited when the funding came through, it’s amazing to have received it.

“We want the children to understand nature and the environment and how we interact with it. We will have mini pond dipping nets so the children can catch and identify pond wildlife and use an identification board to learn the names of the insects and wildlife and return them unharmed to the water or natural habitat.

“We will have a bird table and then set up a web cam that will be live on the school website so the pupils and parents can see what’s happening there.”

She said the pond area will help some of the youngsters who are still struggling after the lockdowns to acclimatise to being back at school, adding: “It can be a very calming place and somewhere that feels peaceful so it will be good for their mental health.”

The school plans to begin work on the area over the summer so that it is ready for pupils when they return in the autumn.

Prime Theatre in Swindon will also use a £17,500 grant to set up a store of scientific teaching resources for schools to make science lessons more fun and engaging. Artistic director Mark Powell said the group, based at the Wyvern Theatre, identified a gap in primary school science teaching while its performers were working in schools with its Swindon Steam Store project.

He said: “We have been delivering lots of drama lessons in schools that were based across the curriculum, particularly maths and science.

“We discovered in that process that primary school teachers tended to be generalists rather than specialists so they were really excited to find new ways of teaching science in creative ways. We also discovered there was a lack of resource in the schools, partly because of budgets but also because they didn’t quite know what was possible or what they could buy.”

The grant will pay for science equipment including beakers, test tubes, chemicals and models of planets to bring lessons to life. It will also fund specialists to demonstrate how to use them to teachers.

Mr Powell: “Without these things pupils have to wait until they get to secondary school to engage with science and by then they may already have decided it’s not for them.

“So this is about engaging with them as early as possible so they can see it is fun and something they can do.”

The Platform Project in Swindon, which works with young people, received £20,000 to invest in technology to help them gain greater digital skills; Wroughton Bowls Club was given £2,000 to refurbish its green and Vision For Wroughton was awarded £1,800 for storage for its garden equipment.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are proud to work in partnership with the science museum to support projects in Wroughton which encourage engagement as well as initiatives that improve the lives of local people.

“We are very thankful for the trust the museum places in us to ensure its money reaches community projects that make a real difference to people.”

Members of the public can find out more about the community foundation’s work at wiltshirecf.org.uk.

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