An exciting new educational project involving the UK’s first new style UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was launched in North Devon in March 2007. Five local schools are working closely with the Northern Devon Coast and Countryside Service, who lead the work in North Devon's Biosphere Reserve, and North Devon Council to encourage students to learn about this internationally recognised area of natural importance.
The £100 000 project will support students in subjects such as geography, maths and ICT through conducting fieldwork, analysing data and using state of the art technology as part of their studies.
Five local secondary schools have formed a partnership called the North Devon Independent / State School Partnership (ISSP) and have successfully gained funding from the Department of Education and Science to develop the educational project.
The schools are:
- West Buckland School
- Braunton School and community College
- Park Community School
- Pilton Community School
- Bideford College
The partnership plan to introduce an interactive website offering a virtual fieldwork experience where children can explore the unique environment in the classroom. The funding for the project means that more fieldwork can take place, allowing students first hand experience of the local environment. It also means that essential equipment can be purchased and used.
The website will include maps, aerial photographs and historical documents, and original fieldwork data from the five schools, providing the chance for children throughout the UK to learn about the unique plants, wildlife and geography of the area. It will also be available to the wider public to learn about this important site.
Jessica Hall, North Devon Council Project Co-ordinator says: “This is an exciting and innovative project that will bring a new dimension to environmental education in the area.”
Ben Totterdell, Countryside Officer for North Devon Coast & Countryside Service says: “We are delighted that this exciting project is going ahead. It is very pleasing to see that local people within the wider Biosphere Reserve area are beginning to benefit directly from its International designation. Education is one of the key functions of Biosphere Reserves, and this project will provide a unique range of opportunities for schools throughout the world, lead by our own schools in North Devon to explore and research the world class environments on our doorstep.”
Biosphere reserves are “learning laboratories for sustainable development”, research and education being a key theme of the “Making a difference in our Biosphere Reserve: Our Strategy for Sustainable Development”. The Biosphere reserve is split into three zones the core, buffer, and transition zones. An aim of the strategy is to use “the core area [covering Braunton Burrows] as a major education resource” .
The Biosphere Schools web-site is www.northdevongeography.com.