Northgate is very lucky to have a fantastic learning area which is not your usual classroom. The ELF (External Learning Facility) is now in its second year of existence and has grown and grown in terms of what it offers students. It has been the labour of love of Mr MacDonald who has worked incredibly hard to get it to where it is now. Of course, there are still developments in the pipeline, but this really does offer a unique experience outside the classroom.
As well as the many animals – Snuffle and Truffle (Kune Kune pigs), Ben and Jerry (goats), love birds, ducks, chickens, quails, rabbits, guinea pigs and more, the ELF offers outdoor space for classrooms. There is a large stage and amphitheatre – perfect for recitals and Drama performances, a world war trench and Anderson shelter, great for History students to get an insight into what it may have been like in the war. We have a mini orchard, poly tunnel, and vegetable plots too. Many different subjects have already made use of the facilities during the time it has been created including Geography, Science and Maths. We even held the leavers day get together there last year for our Year 11s. There are regular visitors at lunch time who help Mr MacDonald look after the animals. 1st Toftwood Brownies have even paid a visit and are planning to hold a special promise ceremony in the ELF this summer! We also have the continued support of the families overlooking the ELF.
Mr MacDonald visits the ELF every day, during the holidays and even on Christmas day to ensure all areas are secure, maintained, clean water is provided and of course the animals have plenty of food. He has had to learn lots – it’s probably not the easiest of tasks to clip a goat’s hooves on your own, amongst the other daily tasks of water and woodland maintenance! The weather can be challenging but the animals know how to adapt to the conditions although the shelters we provide can often take a battering with frost and even the recent hurricane Doris, which meant rigorous checks were required.
In recent months we have been fortunate enough to have kind parents willing to give a helping hand. Mr Gottobed was very kind to donate a new home for Snuffle & Truffle. This was teamwork at its best as Charlotte Charlton, Year 9, told Mr MacDonald her Dad could help! Mr MacDonald was even more delighted as Hannah Charlton (ex-student) and her Dad arrived on scene with the “yellow beast” – to put the new home in its place!
We have also entered Northgate into a potato growing challenge 2017 with Solana seeds. We have our tubers planted after they were delivered by Tom Springall (Junior Product Manager). The tubers have since been planted by 9T as a reward under the watchful eye of Miss Sutcliffe, Mrs Comer and Mr MacDonald. 15 schools have been asked to take part and the seeds were planted in late April. In early September they will be harvested and the crop will be judged on appearance and taste.
The Royal Horticultural Society have an award scheme, for groups, schools and individuals to submit their project work and evidence, they are involved with. The award levels 1 – 5 are extremely challenging to meet the criteria, level 5 being the top award. Recently, we were pleased to announced that the RHS were so impressed with the information they received about the ELF, that Northgate High School are now registered as being awarded level 5! As a result of this achievement, we also received £250 of vouchers and a 5 star wall plaque as well as resources.
Here is what some of our students think about the ELF and what it offers:
Phoebe Adams, 8 MMU, ‘The Elf is lovely place to be to see all of the different animals.’
Lauren Webster, 7SC, ‘The ELF is an amazing and it offers a quiet place to be.’
Lauren Tyler, 7CMY, ‘I love the ELF as everyone is really friendly.’
Nevaeh Hull. 10SEA, ‘I think the ELF is a fantastic facility for students to connect with animals that they wouldn’t normally meet in everyday life, and learn more about them.’
The ELF is such an asset to our school as it provides an excellent learning platform, for our students to study more about animal welfare and the outdoors. We thank Mr MacDonald for all the time and effort he has already put in and continues to put into creating such a great addition to the Northgate environment.
On Friday 31st March we were lucky enough to welcome BBC Radio Norfolk to our school to discuss our Extended Learning Facility (the ELF) and what positive impact it has on our students learning.
You can listen to our interview with BBC Radio Norfolk here.
The ELF was also featured as one of ‘Cultivation Streets’ five inspiring stories of 2017: