Students from the Mendip Studio School and Writhlington School have been working in Rwanda as part of an ongoing partnership with the FAWE school and college, aimed at developing the biotechnology, conservation and science department for education.
The pupils are all part of the Writhlington’s world famous Orchid Project and the visit is the fifth expedition to take place.
Teacher Simon Pugh-Jones explained,
“Our students delivered workshops in biotechnology, orchid science and technology, as well as leading learning treks through Nyungwe National Park to develop field research skills, to pupils from FAWE school in the capital, Kigali, and to diploma students at the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management (KCCEM).
For the first time workshops included 3D printing led by sixteen-year-old James Stewart. James has been working with industrial partners at the Mendip Studio School and the Robox 3D printer which was donated by the manufacturer with consumables supplied by the James Dyson Foundation”.
The 3D printer will stay at FAWE school and James will provide long term support to staff and students via the internet.
Orchid work included identifying and researching some of the diverse orchids of Nyungwe Forest. The forest is famous for its many monkey and bird species and contains extraordinary plant diversity with 25% of the orchid species found there endemic to Rwanda.
Jess Buckle, Year 11, was enthralled by finding orchids in the wild.
“I designed workshops for students on the lifecycle of orchids so that they could learn how to grow them from seed and how to recognize the age of wild plants.”
Students set up a second orchid propagation laboratory at FAWE school co-ordinated by Year 10 student Chloe McGiveron. This is the first school in Rwanda to have its own propagation laboratory and the students can now explore the exciting projects that become possible with this equipment. The laboratory was funded by a bequest from Frome Scientist, Cathy Stansfield, a long term supporter of the Writhlington Orchid Project.
At KCCEM Writhlington pupils worked with Diploma students studying Wildlife Management and Forestry. The KCCEM propagation laboratory was set up by the Writhlington expedition in 2014 and KCCEM students are now fully involved in sustainable orchid production. The students have been supported by two Writhlington students on their gap year before university, Zoe Barnes and Heather Limond. They are delighted at the progress made and the independence shown by students with their orchid project.
It is hoped that the Rwandan students involved will be attending future events in the UK as the Rwandan Orchid Project develops.