Inspirational Presentations at Schools Environment Science Competition

The award ceremony for the sixth Henley Schools Environment Science Competition was held at the River and Rowing Museum on Wednesday 7th June. Organised by Henley in Transition, the biannual contest had two fantastic entrants this year from Sonning Common Primary School and St Mary’s School. Patrick Fleming, the competition coordinator from Henley in Transition, welcomed the excited audience, reflecting on the diversity of ideas from past and present entrants.

Presentations followed the opening speech, detailing the hard work of both schools. Sonning Common Primary School documented the two year development of their ‘Outdoor School’ areas, which allow the children to work outside. The students constructed a camera stand in each area to take daily photographs of the plant growth. These photos were then compiled into a report video, which demonstrated the environmental changes through the season, as well as their outdoor activities. St Mary’s School’s project was more analytical, using scientific methods to determine the number of insects in particular areas of Trinity Churchyard. Unfortunately, St Mary’s students were unable to attend due to a field trip. Instead, the audience was shown a slideshow of photographs taken by the children, featuring some of the specimens they found and examples of the analyses they had performed.

This year, Katrina Judge and Maureen Smith had the challenging task of choosing a winner from the exemplary projects. Both schools were commended for their efforts, each with their own distinct strengths merits. St Mary’s students were recognised for their involvement of outside organisations such the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford and the Royal Society. Meanwhile, the judges were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm of students and teachers alike in the creation of Sonning Common’s project. In the end, it was decided that one winner couldn’t be singled out from the superb entries, and that two prizes would be awarded.

First prize of £700, along with the coveted HSESC trophy, went to Sonning Common Primary School. St Mary’s School was awarded the second prize of £500 for their ‘Plants and Pollinators’ project. The prizes were presented by Mayor of Henley, Councillor Kellie Hinton, who was full of praise for the imaginative competitors. “I’m so proud to be a Mayor of a town that encourages scientists,” she declared, describing the afternoon as “inspiring”. Kellie also expressed her desire that more schools would enter in two years’ time, as she hopes that the next generation might influence the community. This was a thought echoed by Patrick Fleming, who stated, “At a time when adults are under time and financial pressure, we see that school children can be a powerful voice for ideas that will help to shape their lives and their future.”

Henley in Transition would like to thank the Thamesfield Youth Association, the Henley Educational Trust and Henley Town Council for their contributions to the prizes this year, along with the River and Rowing Museum and Kellie Hinton for their assistance at the prize giving. Thanks were also given to the judges, the staff at St Mary’s and Sonning Common Primary School, and Reverend Duncan Carter for their continued support of the projects.

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