HEAD OF SCIENCE, FOOD, and NUTRITION at THE SWANAGE SCHOOL
During her first teaching job, Sam accompanied an A-level biology field trip to Purbeck. When the minibus stopped at a viewpoint, Sam remembers thinking: ‘I am going to live here one day!’ Now, she is not just teaching students about the natural world she loves so much, she is actively shaping the Purbeck community.
For a biology teacher, Purbeck is the dream place. It’s amazing, she says, but, like most of us, young people grow up thinking their home area is the ‘norm’. As Sam helps connect students to the many remarkable and special places in this small corner of Britain, she is re-kindling an excitement and pride in the area.
Within the curriculum, Sam realised she didn’t need to draw on examples from the other side of the planet. Life lessons lie right under her students’ feet. Purbeck contains so many different habitats; world-famous geological formations; unique heathlands; Britain’s rarest reptiles; marine mammals; nesting puffins; and the possibility of Ospreys nesting in Poole harbour. Sam has taken school groups to the Dynamic Dunescapes project, and her students have designed signage for the new grazing regimes on Studland heath. Older students are skilling themselves up about next year’s beaver reintroduction project at Studland and passing on their insights to younger children.
She already sees her pupils taking greater interest and care in what happens to the local environment, and many students are interested in jobs in environmental management and conservation.
Sam believes that the best learning happens at the human scale and that taking care of ourselves, both body and mind, allows us to better care for the environment and the people around us. On the Swanage School grounds, she’s started an allotment and helps manage a forest school area – a small but important sanctuary for students who are feeling the inevitable pressures of life.
Sam’s commitment, and her community ethos, are helping connect students more deeply to the world on their doorstep.