About The Project
The Writhlington School Orchid project is developing innovative approaches to conservation through enterprise and co-operation on a global scale. The project involves hundreds of pupils through vocational courses and extra-curricular activities. At the heart of the project is the School Greenhouse containing one of the UK’s leading orchid collections and a micropropagation laboratory where students raise thousands of orchid species from seed each year.
Conservation and enterprise
'Biologists agree that we are entering a period of extinctions not seen since the end of the Dinosaurs' (IUCN 1996). Tropical habitats are the most diverse on our planet but also amongst the most threatened. In response to these challenges the Writhlington Orchid project is pioneering conservation enterprises that link partners in the UK and the tropical World and revolve around orchid seedling production in the School laboratory.
Writhlington School has made links with Yaxha Orchids, a group of Guatemalan conservationists raising native orchid species from seed, and Bicton Park Botanic Gardens in Devon. Guatemalan orchid species are raised from seed by Writhlington pupils and sold through Bicton Park to help fund the work of Yaxha Orchids
In April 2007 students visited the Jungles of Southern Laos to work with local conservationists and help set up a sustainable rural development initiative focussed on the laboratory raising of local endangered orchid species.
In Laos the project is lead by Chansouk Southivong who is setting up a propagation laboratory to raise orchid plants from seed to be grown on by local small scale coffee farmers.
Writhlington has teamed up with the Eden Project to support the conservation of Himalayan Orchid species.
We are working with Mohan Predhan through the IUCN (World Conservation Union) on projects including raising the critically endangered Cymbidium whiteae for distribution to gardeners in its original range around Gangtok.
Science and horticulture
As a plant based project good horticulture is a crucial part of our work. Students are each in charge of a genus or group of orchids and their plants are shown across the UK. Prizes incluse a Gold Medal at the Chelsea flower show in 2006 and best small exhibit in the European Orchid Gongress 2003.
The orchid project provides a focus for award winning scientific research by Writhlington Pupils both in the UK and through tropical expeditions. Our research helps to improve our orchid culture and prepare students for future careers.
Recent student research has focussed on orchid diversity distribution, pollinator relationships and mimicry. Destinations have included lowland forest in Guatemala and the cloud forests of Brazil and Costa Rica. Expeditions are enterprise funded by the student’s work for the Orchid Project.
Each year students set up their own companies within the Young Enterprise programme. Successes include:
- Stem Labs, regional winners in 2003, who developed our seedling product.
- Los Amigos del Bosque, runners up in the 2005 National finals, working with a Costa Rican reserve and rural school
- Brazil-Brasil, regional winners in 2006. The company grew from the expedition to Brazil in 2005.
- Cockroach – runners up in the 2007 National Finals, developing wholesale Palm Tree Kits.
Taking part in real enterprises, either through Vocational Courses or Young Enterprise, helps students to develop a wide range of important skills. The global nature of our enterprises opens a world of opportunities and a confidence that they can make a difference.