With such a beautiful and expansive school site at our disposal, there are many opportunities to teach the boys about conservation. Conservation is run on Thursday afternoons as an alternative to CCF and community service in the fifth form.
There are 35 boys taking part in conservation, but the boys are split into small groups of six or seven, in order for them to gain the most out of the time. Each group works in a different area of the school grounds, undertaking different projects. The groups are swapped around periodically so that the boys have a chance to get involved in all of the projects available and to learn a wide range of skills.
There are currently four main conservation projects in operation. The first is to maintain woodland biodiversity, this is achieved by cutting back overgrown vegetation to allow smaller species to survive, installing bird feeders, bird boxes, a pond and log piles. The second project is focused on making and maintaining a butterfly garden by the golf course. This involves the boys learning about what types of plants attract butterflies, when and how to plant them, and how to maintain them over the seasons. The third project concentrates on sustainability, this involves the boys learning about how to grow their own vegetables, how to sow seeds and make compost, and how to take and sow tree cuttings. Over the past few years the development of the school allotment has facilitated this. The final project is a new addition this year, completing the process by learning how to cook with the food that they have grown. The secondary aim of the cookery course is to prepare boys for life beyond the Oratory, particularly targeted at University survival! A large component of this is learning how to cook on a budget; each week the boys make their own home cooked meal for two from scratch with additional fresh ingredients for under £5.
Conservation teaches the boys valuable transferable skills, such as team work, planning and management. However, the boys gain far more from this activity, they learn to appreciate the grounds we have here at the Oratory, and take ownership and pride over their work. They learn about the true value of food.