Albany Village Primary School children launch willow tree planting project to become more sustainable and replace plastic

Children at a Wearside school have launched their own sustainable willow tree planting initiative and have urged world leaders “to do your job properly” following the COP26 summit.

Sunday, 21st November 2021, 3:52 pm

Pupils at Albany Village Primary School in Washington have secured £450 funding from Sunderland City Council to plant 222 basket willow trees around the perimeter of their school field.

Not only will the trees help offset the school’s carbon emissions but the willow branches, which can be trimmed back each year without killing the tree, will be used to create woven baskets and containers as well as providing wood for fencing and support for other growing plants.

The baskets will replace the school’s plastic trays and book holders to improve sustainability.

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Headteacher Stephen Jones said: “We’ve used COP26 as a high profile event to get the children discussing the environment and what can be done to reduce climate change and to make our school more sustainable.

"We decided to plant the Basket Willow trees as not only does it reduce our carbon footprint it will also help us to become a more sustainable school and reduce our use of plastics.”

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As well as using the funding to purchase the saplings, once grown, the school will be inviting in a specially trained crafts-person to show the children how to weave their own containers.

Some of the climate change pledges made by children at Albany Village Primary School. Photograph: Elliot Nichol Photography

Mr Jones added: “We hope to be able to sell some of the baskets and containers and use the money to purchase more plants and trees to increase the diversity of vegetation in the school grounds and attract more wildlife.”

The initiative certainly has the full support of the children who can’t wait to get planting.

Bobby Crosier, eight, said: “It’s important to plant trees as they take in carbon dioxide and reduce our carbon footprint. Too much carbon dioxide causes climate change which will cause sea levels to rise and cause floods.”

Classmate Lola McGowan added: “We are going to use the willow to make baskets to reduce how much plastic we use. A lot of plastic ends up in our oceans and can be harmful to wildlife.”

Pupils at Albany Village Primary School writing out their climate change pledges to go onto their COP26 tree display. Photograph: Elliot Nichol Photography

The Council were so impressed with the school’s proposal they decided to provide an additional £300 funding on top of the initial £150 awarded.

Low Carbon Officer Natalie Watson said: “We were particularly impressed with the uniqueness of this project which not only helps to reduce carbon emissions but also replaces and reduces the use of plastics. We wanted to use COP26 to engage children across the city and I’m looking forward to coming back next autumn when the first baskets have been made.”

As part of the school’s COP26 initiative, the children also created a giant tree display. One tree displayed individual leaves created by the children outlining their own pledge as to how they’re going to help reduce climate change and the second tree highlighting what they want world leaders to do.

Year 3 pupils from Albany Village Primary School get ready to plant Basket Willow trees to offset carbon emissions and improve sustainability. (Left to right) Sunderland City Council's Low Carbon Officer Natalie Watson, Olivia Smith, 8, Charlie Hitcham, 7, Jonathan Stimpson, 7, William Garrett, 8, and Headteacher Stephen Jones. Photograph: Elliot Nichol

One leaf simply stated “Do Your Job Properly” and another “Think About the Children”.

Year 3 pupil Jonathan Stimpson, seven, said: “I’ve promised to plant more plants in my garden and I want the world leaders to stop cutting down trees.”

Classmate Alexis Greener, seven, added: “It’s important they listen to children as we are much younger and are going to be most affected by Climate Change.”

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