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Container Classrooms

I am lucky enough to be involved with an exciting project to build an amazing outdoor classroom. John Little of builds the most amazing rooms out of shipping containers and exhibited at Chelsea with one of these buildings.

I met John when I attending one of his green roof day courses with Dusty Gedge. It was brill and inspired me to build the green roof on my hub. John and I got talking and could see that we had skills that would compliment each other.

A little while ago John contacted me about an exciting new build; an outdoor classroom. We had spoken some time ago about how it would be great to get some cameras in a build like this and  he asked if I would like to give them a hand… I was delighted to and yesterday I spent the day with John and his team at his house in Essex. John built his house and it is in about 5 acres of grounds. Much of it is planted for wildlife and the garden was a mass of flowers, insects and even adders! I could quite happily have spent the day wandering around but I managed to snap a few pics before we started to ‘work’!! I only had my little Panasonic with me, but got a couple of shots…

We had decided to give this container classroom the full works… four cameras! There are going to be two nest boxes, a cam on a feeder and then a purpose-built mouse box. The nest boxes were going to b pretty easy… just a matter of deciding where they would go and where the wiring would be. This classroom is going to have a TV monitor at one end and a small quad splitter will split the signal so all cams can be viewed at once. In the future they may want to run the cams via a PC so they can live stream, so we have talked about that I will be visiting the school to tell them more about how they can do that. 

The container was on site and partly prepared. Two sides had been removed and it was all painted. There will be oak framed sliding doors going in these spaces and the whole space will be lined with board and painted. There will be shelving and storage …. it is going to be amazing! What a lucky school!

Today’s job was to build the mammal box that would sit inside the spaces that are made for the fork lift to life the container. I was introduced to Dave….  we did not stop chatting all day, as he told me all about his amazing wildlife travels around the world and we had to stop regularly to look at photos of spectacular wildlife encounters he has had. Dave was equipped with circular saw, and tools galore… it was brill and we had soon discussed the plans I had and he was busy cutting up the wood…. I could get used to this… the jobs that would usually take me 20 minutes were taking him 20 seconds!

It was not long before we had rustled up a box that would fit in the space under the container.

 John’s workshop area was full of all sorts of ‘goodies’ … piles of wood, stumps, bark and all sorts! I was in heaven. I rooted throught he bark pile and found some bark to line the box. We cut it to fit and positioned the small B&W CCD cam in the corner. We plugged it all in at various stages to check we had the correct image and that there were no ‘dead’ spots in the box where mice could feed off camera.

It was looking good. This mouse box will need to be opened by the children so it can be stocked regularly with food and cleaned out as well. We made a front and Dave had some clips left over from a kitchen he had built…these did a perfect job. The front could easily be pulled off and clipped back on. Now we needed a way for them to get in. Dave drilled holes through the plywood and I chisled through the bark to make two entrances. We checked the image again and slid the box into place.

It is going to go at the back of the container, where is is more sheltered and there will be less disturbance. The most difficult bit was drilling a hole through the steel floor.. in exactly the right place… the cavity we had created in the mouse box for the cables to emerge into the classroom and be wired back to the end wall. With  a lot of measuring and Dave’s skills, we soon had the box finished and in place.

Over the next three weeks, the team will completely fit out the rest of the classroom. It’s green roof will be planted up on site. It will be craned out of John’s workshop area, onto a lorry and put in place in the school in North London. I will be visiting them in September to see it all in situ. How exciting!


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