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Location: South-WestYear: 2004Grant: £2080
Teacher: Mr Simon Pugh-JonesScientist: Dr Dave Roberts, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
With the help of Partnership Grant funding in 2001, Writhlington School launched their new orchid lab to help regenerate native orchids. A second Partnership Grant in 2004 allowed the school to engage in further research into orchid conservation.
"Since gaining our Partnership Grants to work with the Micropropagation department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Writhlington School Orchid Project has become a significant global model for community science based conservation." Simon Pugh-Jones
One aim of the initial project was to explore how native Bee Orchids raised from seed could be reintroduced into places where their populations have been damaged. Such specialist research requires specialist equipment, and the majority of the money from the first grant was used to set up a micropropagation unit at the school. During visits to Kew, pupils helped to plan the micropropagation room, and learned some of the skills which would be essential for sowing the seeds, weaning the seedlings and identifying reintroduction sites. Students successfully raised a number of native British orchids from seed and then widened the project to link Micropropagation with conservation efforts in trpical habitats across the World. The project continues to grow from strength to strength. Students from Writhlington are helping to initiate and support conservation and rural development projects based on orchid propagation from seed in Asia, Africa and Central America. Writhlington School has set up a laboratory in a school in Cape Town, South Africa, and is working with six secondary schools in the Himalayan city of Gangtok. Other projects include a community Micropropagation project in Laos and initiatives in Guatemala and Belize. Model for excellence Pupils participate and win prizes at national and international orchid competitions. In May 2010 the School won its second Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for an exhibit featuring students’ conservation work in the Himalayas and orchids grown from seed at Writhlington. The project has been run as a school enterprise for over ten years, and Writhlington Orchids outsell those from other prestige outlets. Students have been successful in a number of regional and national enterprise competitions, and their most recent enterprise project resulted in the publication of a book entitled ‘The Dos and Don’ts of Orchid Growing’. Funds resulting from their enterprise endeavours allow students to take part in exciting overseas expeditions. The science research behind the project has also been commended for its excellence. All students culture orchids from seed as part of their GCSEs, enabling them to gain practical experience of laboratory techniques and research. Recently, Luke Barnes exhibited his project "Investigating orchid populations across the Sikkim Himalaya" at the Big Bang Fair in Manchester, where he won the Society of Biologists Prize.
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