What an EARTH is this?


Kingsley School, Devon is breaking new ground launching a global first in response to the climate change crisis, by creating an Earth Centre in the school grounds.


The Bideford based school plans include turning their rugby pitch into a garden, growing vegetables and storing carbon by using no-dig techniques based on the latest ecological understanding of soil biology – capable of soaking 8 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air and into the soil – every year.


Studying at the centre focuses on practical work, experience in the field, investigative science and ‘learning by doing’ across all subjects. The centre will include a commercial horticulture farm, called the Ecology Zone which will grow vegetables and store carbon.


Sir Tim Smit KBE, Eden Project founder, gave his support to the school’s new centre with a keynote speech to pupils, parents and VIP’s at their Earth Day launch this week.


On Earth Day all normal timetables were suspended and pupils spent the day being curious about the world around us, their part in it and how we can all be more observant and deliberate in our actions to take much better care of our wonderful planet. Kingsley pupils were busy with beach cleans, building hedgehog habitats, bird boxes and owl boxes for the new woodland to be planted in the Kenwith Valley, making bird feeders, planting oak trees on the school grounds, creating beautiful artworks from micro plastics and natural pigments to communicate environmental concerns, and brainstorming ideas and pitching, Dragon’s Den style, for action at home and at school based on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Kingsley School invited a number of brilliant local businesses, organisations and individuals to share all the great environmental work they are doing. Organisations who participated in Earth Day and shared their work with pupils and guests included: Plastic Free Torridge, Plastic Free North Devon, County Garage with the new All-Electric Renault Zoe, The CLA, SWM & Waste Recycling Ltd, Southwest Environmental Ltd, Norbord Europe Ltd., Greene’s Oxford, North Devon Soap, Refuse and Reuse, Earth Friendly foodwear, Unearth – Honeymeadow Art Retreat, Ecoside Law, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere, Founder of Fridays For Future Barnstaple, Northam Town’s Climate Emergency sub-committee, Torridge Green Party, JB Architects, Amy Jobes Art, Resurgence Magazine,  The Ecologist, Deltor UK Publishing, 361 Energy, Liberal Democrats with their environmental pledges, Mitchell and Dickinson, Surfers against Sewage and the Cleaners Seas Group.


Headmaster, Mr Last had the honour of introducing the new Earth Centre and discussed how Kingsley wishes to equip all pupils with the tools to better understand the environment and how best to respond to the challenges of climate change. Mr James Barnett from JB Architects then shared the visionary designs for the new Earth Centre at Kingsley.


The Earth Centre will also house modern laboratory and workshop, dedicated teaching areas, facilities for the growing of vegetable seedlings, and equipment for the harvesting and packing of produce. Not only will the school be supplied with its own vegetables, but students will hone their business skills in providing the local community with fresh food.


Pete Last, Kingsley Headmaster, commented, “Bideford is within the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere, and many of our students have a strong rural and agricultural connection. The Earth Centre recognises and speaks to our role in the community and the environmental values that we have chosen to foster. The Earth Centre is simply the right thing to do”.


The unique approach adopted by the Earth Centre provides a myriad of educational opportunities – both vocational and academic – for students of all abilities.  Students can choose to focus on any aspect of environmental studies and sustainable agriculture from ecology and biology to politics and economics, and from practical horticulture to marketing, sales, and business skills.


Enhancing biodiversity is also part of the Earth Centre’s ethos. A range of fast-growing indigenous trees will be planted with the school grounds, improving the local native tree population while also providing nutritious biomass for vegetable growing.


Christopher Upton, Chairman of Greene’s Education, Oxford said, “The Earth Centre at Bideford is possibly the most innovative, imaginative and exciting further education project that Greene’s has been involved in. I’m particularly pleased to see school children of all ages gain a deep understanding of how to grow and understand healthy food and fix carbon at the same time.


“I’m also convinced that the unique combination of academic study and practical experience will provide the students at Kingsley with the skills and qualifications they need for success in their lives.”  


KSI Schools Managing Director, Daniel Wellings, commented, “KSI Education is committed to providing an education that equips our students with the skills required for their future careers. Nothing could be more relevant than the Earth Centre.


“We are delighted to be developing this project with so many passionate people both at the school and in our local community, making Kingsley a truly unique place for our students to study, become engaged and inspired”.


Sir Tim Smit, Founder of The Eden Project said: “As we head into uncertain times, here at Kingsley you are on the verge of making environmental studies rock n’ roll. Let’s build the magic here in the South West! Working with the grains of nature and understanding natural cycles should be the start of every pupils’ learning. What a privilege to be at a school like this today, that studies stuff like that.””