by DEBORAH JARMAN Project Director
THE aim of the London Parks Discovery Project is to help schools get the maximum benefit from using their local parks and open spaces. It is based on use of the internet. The Trust set up the Project in the autumn of 2003, with the assistance of a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In the Development Phase (October 2003 to June 2004) we set out to create a pilot educational website aimed at Key Stage Two children and their teachers.
Our starting point was a simplified version of the Trust Inventory created by Sally Williams, to which we added lots of extra images and maps to give it increased visual appeal. We also completely revised the existing LPGT Education Pack, so that the activities were more challenging and linked more closely to the requirements of the National Curriculum in History, Geography and Citizenship.
The pilot scheme covered four London boroughs - Enfield, Wandsworth, Greenwich, and Newham - chosen for their geographical spread and very wide social and ethnic mix. I then set up contacts in both their parks and education departments and explained what we planned to do.
As our website consultants we chose Footmark Media Ltd, of Rochester in Kent. Together, we spent four months working very hard to create the website. My rôle was to simplify the information on the Inventory database and to search the target boroughs' local history libraries for primary sources about the history of their parks to be used on the website. At the same time Richard and Miranda Gray, of Footmark, set up the website itself, creating interesting and stimulating content for the schools using it. It was the first time I had been so closely involved with the development of a website, and I found the whole process a fascinating one. The website went live at the end of June 2004, and can be found at www.parkexplorer.org.uk. It was unveiled to members at the LPGT Garden Party this year and has been very well received.
The Delivery Phase began in September 2004 and has funding to July 2005. In two boroughs, the education advisory staff sent a circular letter round to all their primary schools, telling them about the Project and inviting them to take part. In the other two boroughs, initial contacts have come from me.
Take-up was slow initially, but relationships are now beginning to develop. I have demonstrated the website to several teachers' meetings and will be working with a class of children in Wandsworth in November. I am hoping to publish a Newsletter every term for all schools in the pilot boroughs, with news about their parks and examples of children's work in them. This will serve the dual function of spreading the good news about what the Project can offer and celebrating children's achievements.
At least one other borough has expressed an interest in participating in the Project, and it is hoped to apply for funding in 2005 to extend its reach.