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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Eco Group at The Benjamin Britten High School consists of a range of students, from year 8 (12 years old) up to year 11 (16 years old), all of whom have either been there from the start of the group running under its current format, or have been picked up along the way.

The earliest members who are still present and active in the group today were recruited in September of 2012 by Mr G Champion and joined into a group which was purely focused on raising money for solar panels via 10:10’s Solar Schools Project. Unfortunately, the launch for our project didn’t go as well as anticipated but we didn’t let that affect our motivation as we continued to push for donations and help towards our goal of getting a solar roof. This project was interrupted however when our school signed up to the government’s free solar panel scheme which allowed the school to have solar panels fitted for free which produce energy to be fed back into the national grid, giving the school a discounted energy bill.

Fortunately, this meant that we now had solar panels and we hadn’t had to spend a penny of our raised money which meant we could spend it on other projects. This then led to a spectrum of potential projects being thought up. Although some of them seemed viable, others may have seemed a bit ambitious but we still managed to get through them! One of these projects was the Eco Group website (bbhseco.org) which was originally planned to be hosted by a solar powered Raspberry Pi microcomputer and contain “learning resources” including information about different environmental issues, etc. Unfortunately, we found that the Raspberry Pi would not be powerful enough to host this website so we had to make a compromise and use an online hosting service instead. This however did mean that we now had a spare Raspberry Pi which we could use for alternative projects.

Another project which spanned from our budget being directed away from solar panels is the solar garden project, which would contain a vertical garden, chicken coop and solar panel stand. As of now, the chicken coop is complete following many months of construction by the students, with help from local carpenter Andrew Stanley. We currently have four chickens living in the coop, all of whom are happy with their new homes following the departure from their previous ones including battery farms.

Both the vertical garden and the solar panel stand are underway and we aim to have these completed by the end of the academic year which would then complete our solar garden which has been at our main focus point over the past few years, where we have dedicated our own spare time to working towards the projects – including after school and half term time.

The vertical garden will be constructed from recycled plastic bottles containing plants, and the solar panel stand is set to power a Raspberry Pi camera which will eventually provide a live video feed of the chickens onto our website (bbhseco.org). These finishing touches to our garden will make it a truly amazing place and it will serve as a reminder as to what students can truly achieve through passion, perseverance and determination, with minimal help from teachers and other adults. The garden will be a great legacy of the current Eco Group, located in the heart of the school, and will hopefully remain maintained by younger year groups in the coming years who will be able to continue the projects and create new ones just as amazing. 

Through our hard work and perseverance of projects, we were recognised by those behind the Bernard Matthews Youth Awards who suggested we enter the education category of the awards. Following this, I filled out an application form detailing what our group is about and what we’ve achieved over the past few years. Not only were we lucky enough to be shortlisted, we actually won the category and were presented with our award at the awards event in OPEN, Norwich, which was presented by actress Dani Harmer and TV presented David Whitely. We are thrilled to have won the award and look forward to using our £1000 prize money towards finishing our current projects as well as starting new projects to be completed by the future eco group.


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