Fairfield Primary School’s Eco Heroes are sowing the seeds of an outside classroom to encourage fellow pupils to engage with nature and embrace outdoor learning.

Members of the after school club in Stockton have planted an array of insect friendly flowers, including buddleia, lavender and spring bulbs, to bloom in the growing educational outside space after being awarded £250 from Venator’s £10,000 Together Fund.

Global chemical company Venator, the experts in pigments and additives which has its HQ at Wynyard Park, established its Together Fund in July 2018 to support communities where its employees live and work. Successful applicants went head to head with scores of community and sporting groups in an online vote involving 65,000 people region-wide.

The winning groups, including several from Stockton-on-Tees, received a grant of £250 towards activities that inspire teamwork, one of Venator’s core values.

Grants were awarded to: Fairfield Primary School, Wynyard Village FC under 8 development team, Children’s Dance Opportunities, Billingham Juniors FC Under 12 Lionesses, Stainsby School of Gymnastics, 6th Norton (ST Joseph’s) Scout Group, Stockton Rugby Football Club (U13/U15 Girls Team) and Norton Hockey Club.

Fairfield Primary School’s Eco Heroes started work on their outdoor classroom last year. Pupils from the after school club have raised funds to buy a wildlife pond, sowed seeds to create a meadow, asked the school to install an all-weather path to the pond and have worked with the wider community to plant a small hedge – with plans to plant a further 30 trees this winter. The next step for the club was to purchase a selection of insect friendly plants – to attract birds, bees and other wildlife – as well as a selection of herbs and bamboo.

Mr Andrew Ruffell, Headteacher of Fairfield Primary School, said: “I am extremely proud of our Eco Heroes. The outside classroom they have created is a real credit to the school and demonstrates their passion, commitment and creativity.

“The funding from Venator has allowed the group to further develop the outside space for all of their fellow pupils to enjoy. After the Easter holidays all of our Eco Heroes planted all of the new insect friendly plants they bought as well as herbs and bamboo to create a sensory garden. A quiet space for students to use during playtime.

“The whole school love the new sensory garden and are thrilled the outside garden has continued to grow. The new selection of plants has also encouraged insects and other wildlife into the area allowing our teachers to take science classes outside. Pupils have thoroughly enjoyed learning in a different way and the garden has helped to bring subjects like science to life.

“When the school won the funding we were very pleased and excited. The whole process was very straight forward and we were delighted that when it came to the voting stage the whole community got behind our Eco Heroes.

“We would recommend other schools and groups to apply for grants under Venator’s Together Fund and our Eco Heroes will definitely be applying for a Together Fund grant again as they have plans to start a vegetable garden.”

The Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees, Councillor Lynn Hall, said: “It was a pleasure to open the eco-garden and see the hard work already undertaken by the enthusiastic staff and pupils at Fairfield School.

“It’s an amazing open air space that will enable the whole school to progress their learning and experience the joys of nature.

“I wish them happy, tranquil times as they explore their new learning environment.”

Karen Fenwick, Vice President Corporate Branding and Communications at Venator, said: “It’s great to hear how the grants are actually spent and that they do make a difference to schools, teams and community groups across the North East.

“With over 600 employees across the North East, we think it’s important to give back to the communities where we live and work. Congratulations to all who received an award and for those that weren’t successful this time, our Together Fund will be reopening for entries after the summer!”

Venator is a New York Stock Exchange listed business with its global HQ at Wynyard. The company established its £20,000 Community Fund in July 2018 in a bid to support the communities in which its employees live and work through supporting projects that align with their values. The £20,000 Venator Community Fund incorporates The Together Fund and The Bright Ideas Fund.