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Children learn better when the outdoors comes into the classroom – and the benefits extend beyond academic achievement
Howe Dell Primary in Hatfield could well be the UK’s most eco-friendly school. It has toilets that flush using rainwater, sedum roofs made of plants and vegetation, and classroom sink-tops made from recycled yoghurt pots. But the school’s design doesn’t just help project the environment, it also uses nature to improve children’s academic performance and behaviour.
In 2007, the school was relocated from its former home – a rectory attached to the historic Hatfield House – to the centre of a new housing development in the Hertfordshire town. It is part of a £10m project funded by Hertfordshire council and includes a nursery, a community centre and a daycare facility.
The architects were given carte blanche by the council to push the limits of sustainable design. As well as a revolutionary heating system that uses the playground to warm and cool its buildings, the school has floor tiles that can be individually moved or replaced once they are worn, solar panels and a wind turbine to produce renewable energy.
“There are lots of technologies and tools in the school building, but for me it is about how they are used to enhance the learning of the children,” says headteacher Debra Massey. As such, there is a wetland area on the grounds that is used for science projects and the sedum roof doubles up as a classroom where students learn about the birds and insects that have made it their habitat. The playground also has learning stations where pupils can examine bugs with magnifying glasses. […]