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Let’s Go Zero and OVO Foundation launch Nature Prize for schools

Let’s Go Zero has launched a new Nature Prize for schools in partnership with OVO Foundation, OVO Energy’s charitable arm. 

The Nature Prize will support schools to increase access to nature for their students and local communities, improve biodiversity in their school grounds, and kick-start climate action. The Let’s Go Zero campaign is a coalition of environmental organisations pushing for all UK schools to be zero carbon by 2030. OVO Foundation and Let’s Go Zero share a belief that all children and young people should have access to nature and are committed to building a brighter, greener future for the next generation. 

Schools, nurseries, and colleges across the UK can enter for the chance to win a cash prize to implement their own nature projects and bring their students closer to nature. There are 25 prizes available: 10 prizes of £1,000 and 15 prizes of £200, meaning plenty of chances to win. 

Students at St Francis Xavier school, Yorkshire, installing a hedgehog box
Students at St Francis Xavier school, Yorkshire, installing a hedgehog box

Planting vegetables, creating outdoor learning spaces, or building bug hotels are just some of the ways schools can encourage nature in the school grounds, but the possibilities are endless, and schools are encouraged to be as creative as possible in their entries.

There is already a huge amount of research demonstrating the importance of nature connection for children, with those who spend time outdoors experiencing better mental and physical health, and improved well-being. The government, recognising this fact, has made a policy commitment to get children closer to nature, both in and out of school. Money from the OVO Foundation Nature Prize will help to do just that, enabling over 37,000 children and young people to learn in and for nature, whilst improving student well-being. 

Schools are key places to enact and inspire change in the next generation as well as the wider community. Judges for the Nature Prize will be particularly looking for projects whose impact reaches beyond the school gates. Schools could invite members of the community, local businesses, or other schools in to learn about, or take part in, their nature projects as part of widening the project’s impact. 

Judges are also keen to see applications from schools in less-advantaged areas, or for projects that benefit less-advantaged students. Access to nature for children and young people is highly unequal across the UK: it has been reported that, on average, 12% of children never, or rarely, visit natural environments. The Nature Prize seeks to address this and ensure that every child and young person has access to nature and can learn about protecting the planet. 

Applications from schools in areas particularly vulnerable to climate impacts are also encouraged, alongside projects that will help schools adapt to changes brought about by climate change. Adaptation is a major theme of the Department for Education’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy (2022) as schools face significant challenges from flooding, water scarcity, and heat stress. Projects helping schools’ adaptation efforts are an essential tool in improving the resilience of school communities and are a great way of impressing the judges and winning a prize. 

Competition entries will be judged by Let’s Go Zero team members and OVO employees in an online vote. Judges hope to see a wide range of projects being entered and are excited to see just how creative schools can be. 

Hannah Howard, Head of OVO Foundation said: “We know how important it is for children to have access to nature, and to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to protect it. We hope the OVO Foundation Nature Prize will act as a catalyst for schools to kickstart climate action within their grounds, helping students, teachers, and wider communities to connect with nature.”

The OVO Foundation Nature Prize opens during Fairtrade Fortnight (27 Feb-12 March) which will be celebrated by Fairtrade Schools, a coalition member of the Let’s Go Zero campaign. The focus of this year’s fortnight is the harmful effect the climate crisis is having on our food systems and presents a great opportunity to raise students’ awareness of fair food growing in the UK and around the world. Schools might also take inspiration from Fairtrade Fortnight when designing their projects for the Nature Prize, perhaps by growing food or setting up a community vegetable garden.

Entries for the competition are now open and will close at 23:59 on Monday 6th March. Visit The OVO Foundation Nature Prize – Lets Go Zero to apply or find out more details.

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