Groups around Swindon promoting engineering and the environment have been given a share of £57,000 from a community benefit fund set up by a Wroughton solar park.
The Wiltshire Community Foundation, which holds the Science Museum Group Wroughton Fund, organised a panel to decide grant allocations. The fund was set up in 2018 for the park’s owners to donate money from the park’s revenue to benefit the community.
Wiltshire Community Foundation Chief Executive Rosemary Macdonald said: “The solar park entrusted us with making sure its money is used effectively and this diverse range of beneficiaries promoting science, engineering and the environment shows we are doing that. We are delighted this money will be making such a difference.”
Tick Tock Playgroup in Wroughton has been given £20,000 to build an accessible outdoor area at its base in the former library. The money will also pay for security fencing and new play equipment.
The group provides breakfast, nursery and after-school care for pre-school children between 8am and 6pm every day. Around 40 per cent of children are from low-income families and 20 per cent have disabilities.
Manager Charlotte McLee said: “All the children are able to play indoors with the large space we have but are not able to fully enjoy the outside space due to its limitations of functionality, security and suitable play equipment.
“Our children with physical disabilities are only able to access a limited area. With the redevelopment we want to ensure they are able to gain access to it all. We have a large number of children who either don’t have outdoor spaces at home or do not have the opportunity to play outdoors on a regular basis.”
She said the improved security fencing will not only keep children in, but intruders out. “Without a secure fence line, we have had equipment stolen and damaged,” she said.
Wroughton Infants School has been awarded £12,500 to develop an outdoor science area for its 230 pupils to learn more about the natural world. The grant will be used to reline the school pond, buy an eco-pod greenhouse, build a covered area and bird watching hide and buy outdoor learning equipment including a mini wind turbine and solar panels.
Once open, pupils, families and nursery schools from the town can use the area for a variety of outdoor education, including pond-dipping, mini-beast hunts and learning about recyclable energy.
Executive headteacher Andrew Wilson said: “Our vision is for it to become a community space for the people of Wroughton, and further afield as the provision becomes more established, developing science and environmental awareness through a variety of hands on experiences.
“Children are the future decision makers. By educating children from a young age about science and the environment we are providing them with the knowledge and tools to be able to be responsible citizens at both a local and national level.”
Prime Theatre in Swindon has been given £8,700 to develop a new project, called Everyone’s An Engineer, to engage more young people with the town’s STEAM museum to generate more interest in engineering and STEM subjects.
In addition to providing free training for primary and secondary school teachers on how to bring science and engineering more alive, the group will offer STEM days in schools and educational visits for vulnerable youngsters such as young carers, looked after children and those educated at home.
The group will also target young people in deprived areas by offering free season tickets to STEAM and encourage more girls to take an interest in engineering with tailored material.
Artistic director Mark Powell said: “STEAM and Prime want to create the most engaging and animated science education offer for children in our region. We spent 2019 developing strategic plans and piloting activity identifying and addressing gaps in joint education/community provision.
“We worked with Swindon Borough Council Education and Social Care to meet groups with little or no regular engagement with us as partners. We trialled British Sign Language support in the museum and workshops for Children in Care. This helped to test what is possible when science meets theatre across the museum collection.”
The Swindon Therapy Centre for Multiple Sclerosis was awarded £14,000 for 40 PV solar roof panels to help it reduce its carbon emissions and, just as importantly, cuts its electricity bill.
The centre, which provides a range of therapies for people living with MS or other neurological conditions, said the savings would allow it to concentrate more of its resources on helping people.
Fundraiser Kathryn Beale said: “The whole project will enable us to maximise the building’s capacity, maintain our rental agreements and associated rental income, ensure that our service remains relevant to members, and reduce our outgoing costs and carbon foot print, making a significant contribution to the sustainability of the organisation.”
The Friends of the Swindon to Marlborough Railway Path have been given £1,950 for two new interpretation boards alongside the path. One in Marlborough will tell the story of the two Marlborough stations and showing where they used to be and one in Ogbourne St George parish will highlight the landscape to be seen from the path.
Friends member Dick Millard said: “Since 2011, Friends of the Railway Path has engaged the local community in both using and working on the Path. We have stimulated local people to provide over 1,900 hours of work on workdays.”