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Students dig in to help the environment flourish


A group of Early Childhood Studies degree students got their spades stuck into supporting the University of Wolverhampton’s Sustainability goals by planting trees across Walsall Campus.  

The tree planting exercise came to fruition when Dawn Jones, Programme Lead for the Early Childhood Studies degree, and Charlotte Connor Sustainability Manager in Estates joined forces to embed the UN United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals into the Early Years course programme.   

A group photo of Early Year students ready to plant trees at Walsall Campus

Charlotte jumped at the collaboration, recommending a Woodland Trust scheme aimed at engaging schools and communities in getting millions more trees growing nationwide in an effort to help the UK reach its 2050 carbon net-zero target.  

The green fingered students, who joined us at the start of this academic year, joined in the project as part of their level 4 Role of Play module.  

The activity which is part of the University’s wider Sustainability Programme allows students to actively contribute to improving the environment they learn in by increasing nature and biodiversity; whilst developing a skill set and values which they can pass on when they start to teach future generations. 

Dawn said: “It’s all about embedding sustainability values and capturing people at a young age.  We want our graduates to be at the cutting edge of that knowledge so they can take that out into these settings and into their practice.”

Charlotte said: “It’s a really good exercise for the students and assists them in understanding the implications of Carbon and the alternative routes to make a difference, supporting biodiversity, and the insects and small wildlife that are within our campus. In a few years, these trees will be grown and contributing towards the environment, absorbing carbon, helping to support our journey to deliver our sustainability goals at the University.”   

40 trees were planted over two sessions and include: rowan saplings, which grow berries that attract birds; silver birch saplings, which will naturalise with the existing trees around campus; and wild cherry saplings which also grow fruits and have pretty blossom in the spring. On the second session larger, more established fruit trees (cherry, apple, pear, plum, gage) were planted, giving a welcome boost to the scenery around the Walsall Campus grounds.  

Dawn said: “I’m really pleased with what the students have got out of it. We’ve been able to think about how this relates to the Role of Play module, how it supports childrens' learning, especially sustained shared thinking. And they’ve all gone away smiling and have really embraced the activity.”  

Selina Hall, Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, said: “There are many other benefits to developing the students’ social skills, emotional health and wellbeing, and giving them the confidence and self-assurance to lead these activities with children out in their placement settings.”  

A student holding sapling looking towards the camera, fellow students in a cluster in the background

It’s not unusual for Faculty of Education Health and Wellbeing students and staff to be found enjoying the benefits of community gardening.  A few years ago, the School of Nursing established an allotment next to the sport courts at Walsall Campus, which staff and students from different courses now contribute to maintaining.  

Dawn Said: “We’re very lucky that we collaborate with the School of Nursing on maintaining this lovely allotment space.  We’ve come on board, and we bring the students out here at least every fortnight for a range of modules across levels 4, 5 and 6 and we agree to develop this space as a site for outdoor learning.”  

Charlotte has identified that across the University, there’s a lot of work in the background in looking into various ways the University can be more Sustainable in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  Look out for more updates on the Sustainability Programme later in the year. 

Cherry tree planted at Walsall Campus by Early Years students

Of course, every one of us has a role to play in helping the environment.  

Charlotte and Zainab, both University Sustainability Managers in the Estates and Facilities department, offer advice to all staff and students on the many things you can do to contribute, big or small.  “Look out for guidance on various initiatives from correct recycling; to energy saving and making sure you off switch your lights, computers and monitors when not in use; to bringing your own re-usable water bottles and coffee cups to campus to reduce waste.

"You don’t have to drastically change your lifestyle, even a series of little changes can really add up and make a difference at the University and to the environment.” 

If you would like to find out more about this project or other sustainability initiatives, you can contact Charlotte Connor at and Zainab Own at 

A group photo of Early Year students ready to plant trees at Walsall Campus

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