Environmental classroom gets students closer to nature

20 March 2017

Students can now get closer to nature after a purpose-built environmental classroom was opened at Thwaite Botanical Gardens.

Thwaite Botanical Gardens

The log cabin-style building can accommodate up to 40 students at a time and will allow the University of Hull to extend its environmental studies and outreach work.

The classroom will be used by biology and geography students for fieldwork training and as a base to carry out research into the educational benefits of fieldwork.

Student teachers will use the facility to learn how to teach youngsters about the environment and run outdoor educational exercises for schools.

Professor Roland Ennos, from the School of Environmental Sciences, said: “The students can for the first time carry out environmental surveys, collect samples or perform experiments in the wild and perform detailed observations and analysis all in one place, without having to return to the main campus.

Classroom at Thwaite Botanical Gardens

“It’s therefore a one-stop shop for fieldwork and enables it to be done in all weathers.

“The classroom will be used by many undergraduate and postgraduate courses in biology and geography, and for teaching PGCE students how to do fieldwork with schools.

“It will be used for research into the benefits of fieldwork for both schoolchildren and students. It will also be used by local schools, including forest schools, for field trips, by local societies such as the Hull Natural History Society and Friends of Thwaite Gardens for evening talks and open days, and for University away days.”

Students on the University of Hull’s Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Science were among the first to use the classroom.

Victoria Scott, 21, who is studying for a PGCE in Biology, said: “We have done some pond dipping, and bird spotting and estimated local bird populations. We get to practice and identify the potential problems associated with fieldwork before we teach it ourselves.”

Michelle Wormald, a lecturer in science education at the University of Hull, said that many schools did not have the facilities to practice fieldwork and practical skills.

She added: “This classroom helps to bring science alive and we plan to open it to schools in the area. It has all the facilities you would want from a classroom but in a fieldwork environment.”

Thwaite Botanical Gardens are situated just two miles from the main University campus near the centre of Cottingham and are an important resource for students studying environmental sciences.

The site includes more than 20 acres of beautiful semi-natural habitat, including grassland, broadleaved woodland, an orchard and a lake.

It is used by biology and geography students for field trips in subjects such as freshwater ecology, biodiversity and animal behaviour.

  • Schools interested in organising a trip to Thwaite Botanical Gardens and using the environmental classroom should email Victor Swetez at the University v.swetez@hull.ac.uk
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