Eco schools

In 2019, Harmeny gained its third successive Green Flag, the coveted award from Eco-Schools Scotland

To achieve Eco-Schools recognition, a school has to offer detailed evidence of engagement with the environment and of the ways it has helped to make its community a better place in which to live.

Spearheaded by Harmeny’s “eco-warriors”, a panel of children guided by teachers and Harmeny’s Outdoors team, the school gained its first flag in 2015. The award has to be renewed every two years and success is not guaranteed.

“Harmeny does a lot of things naturally,” says Outdoor Learning Facilitator Rob Eastwood. Partly this is because of the school’s amazing 38 acres of woodland and gardens – home to a wide range of wildlife, including badgers, deer and owls. The opportunities for Harmeny’s children to learn about the world around them are countless. “Our science teacher, Catherine, does a lot of outdoor work – newt surveys and biodiversity studies – and within the Outdoors department, we’re always out and about with the children. Even when you’ve biking, you can stop and observe flowers or undergrowth, and that’s a lesson.”

Walk through Harmeny’s grounds, and you’ll spot hibernation boxes for hedgehogs, numerous bird boxes, and “habitat walls” designed and built by the children. “We even have a camera trap to watch what the activities of badgers and other animals at night.”

Down at the beach, too, the children enjoy Coasteering – jumping, scrambling and splashing along Scotland’s shoreline, scaling rocks and becoming immersed in their coastal surroundings. “This is just what we do,” says Rob, “so the Eco-schools requirements come easily to us.”

Each eco-warrior gets a role. Litter picking is a given – there will always be a rota monitor. But the team undertakes a substantial site audit in order to set its priorities. From 2019 on, these will reflect the United Nation’s global priorities known as Sustainable Development Goals, which include work on climate action, gender equality, life on land, and good health and wellbeing – “something we’re good at here at Hameny”, Rob says.

These goals – and the work the eco-warriors undertake – help everyone think about what’s going on in the wider world beyond Harmeny, Rob says. In the past, the children have been seen down at Balerno’s Farmers Market, selling fruit and veg dug from their own Community Garden, and even supplying the local bistro, Carlyle’s.

“The Eco-schools scheme challenges us all to ask: How can we make a difference? How can we engage with our communities?” With their green flag continuing to fly high, Harmeny’s children are leading the way.