Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 15:53 UK
Nursery classroom made of straw
Eco classroom - Bute Cottage nursery
The new eco-classroom is the result of three years planning and hard work

An ambitious eco project by staff, pupils and parents at a school in Penarth has culminated in the unveiling of a classroom made from straw bales.

Bute Cottage Nursery has spent the past two years creating a classroom built wholly from sustainable or recycled materials.

As well as using straw bales for the walls, the roof was waterproofed using old rubber conveyer belts.

The classroom was officially opened by Assembly minister Jane Hutt.

The nursery already has two green flags awarded by the organisation Eco-Schools and decided to embark upon this project after seeing an article about straw houses in a national newspaper.

After researching the idea, everyone interested in helping out met as a group. They decided that all materials used to build the classroom should be recycled or sustainable and that the costs would be met through a mixture of fundraising and donations from local businesses.

Deputy Head Hilary Hanmer admitted that the project wasn't without its hiccups. One of the most challenging parts of the build was constructing the foundations to the classroom.

Hilary Hanmer
Deputy Headmistress Hilary Hanmer welcomed the support offered

Recycled tyres supplied by a local farm were used to form the foundations. They had to be stacked in a certain way and then packed very tightly with clay, soil or rubble to make them rigid. It was a massive task as around 130 tyres were used.

A large group of volunteers including local firefighters, parents and staff helped but unfortunately after they'd finished laying the foundations they were told they'd done it incorrectly and it had to be done all over again.

Hilary explained: "To redo it all with an expert took about another two weeks of working in the rain and with solid clay and mud from the garden ... not pleasant."

She revealed that the straw bale part of the build was actually one of the easier parts of the project as the foundations and the floor had already gone in. It was then just a case of finding a fine day to construct the walls as if the straw got wet it would be it would rot and be unusable.

Straw bale classroom
After the straw bale walls were in place, lime render was applied

Parents, children and staff came together to build the straw walls under the supervision of an expert. Once the bales were stacked they were secured using hazel pegs and brute force!

The bales were then curved by lying them on their side with with one end resting on an object and then jumping on the centre. With an army of willing volunteers it took just five hours to construct the seven bale high walls of the classroom.

Lime render was applied to waterproof the walls, followed later by pink lime wash. The children requested that a 'truth window' be included in the walls so that the straw could still be seen.

Finding suitable materials to construct a roof for the classroom required some creative thinking. A solution was found by using conveyor belts. These came originally from local mines and Aberthaw power station.

The project has cost the school in total around £5,000 thanks to the fundraising efforts of parents, children and local businesses.

Hilary said the project had been hard work but added that the secret of its success had been the strength of support from everyone in the school and the wider community.

Audio: Penarth's new eco-classroom
27 May 09 |  Nature & Outdoors
Classroom made from straw
02 Oct 07 |  England




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