Bishop’s Stortford College Prep School has opened a brand-new, purpose-built arboretum designed to facilitate pupils’ wellbeing, mental health and outdoor learning.
An idea initiated by a team of five Year 8 pupils back in 2020 as their entry for the Global Leaders Competition, the arboretum aims to improve pupils’ mental health and well-being, as well as encouraging bees and butterflies back into the area.
A pupil survey, conducted by the team and distributed via the Prep School Pupil Council, alerted the school to the need for a peaceful space for prep school pupils during break times.
Thanks to community contributions to the Stortfordian Foundation’s Annual Fund, through donations and shop purchases, £21,000 was allocated to help fund the construction of the arboretum.
The space has been available for use to pupils since the beginning of May 2022.
Most of the furniture within the arboretum, which was selected by pupils, is made from recycled materials including picnic tables and stage seating made of recycled crisp packet pellets. Prep school parents kindly donated funds to buy hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees for the area, which were voluntarily planted by 160 pupils in the space of two weeks. The Prep School Pupil Council also donated £500 for bird feeders, bug hotels, waterproof picnic blankets and more.
The now fully functioning space encourages pupils to use their imaginations. The stage has been used by pupils of all age groups for making up dance routines, to practising instrumental performances. The picnic tables, which feature world maps, provide pupils with an opportunity to test their knowledge, and the variety of plants in the sensory garden open the opportunity to discover elements of nature pupils may never have explored before. Staff are also able to book the arboretum for outdoor lessons.
Bill Toleman, head of the prep school, said: “The mental health and well-being of our pupils is really important to us and it has been wonderful to watch this pupil-led initiative come to life over the last couple of years. The arboretum provides a dedicated space for pupils to enjoy some peace and quiet, be with nature and spend time together as well as teaching opportunities using the stage or the outdoor classroom. It is a wonderful addition to our campus and I’m sure will be appreciated by pupils and staff for many years to come.”