ESD case study: Foundation Learning at Wiltshire College

Introduction by Charlotte Bonner, National Head of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).

Throughout our blog series of case studies from the report Leadership for ESD in the FE Curriculum, we have consistently seen ESD initiatives and activities that symbiotically benefit the learner, educator and teaching organisation. They also help develop learners’ knowledge, skills, behaviours and agency to positively contribute to sustainability outcomes in their lives and jobs.

In the previous blog, we heard how an accounting lecturer is encouraging his learners to explore the complexities and contradictions which can exist within sustainable development and Accounting. By using real-life case studies and evidence, Richard Carter of West Suffolk College, is able to demonstrate to his learners the impact of positive green change, and the implications of when it is mismanaged.

For our final case study of the series, we visit the Foundation Studies Department at Wiltshire College to learn more about their unique Apple Project. As part of the Foundation Studies course, learners become the entrepreneurs of an apple juice business that eliminates food waste. From gathering ingredients to learning how to make the product and sell it, the learners are not only gaining valuable green skills, but also key life skills that will last beyond education.

Wiltshire College’s award-winning ‘Apple Project’

The Foundation Studies Department at Wiltshire College offers its learners the chance to run a business called the Apple Project, as part of their Foundation Studies course. The business is built around the production of apple juice and aims to reduce food waste. The learners collect fallen apples from a local orchard, which would otherwise have gone to waste, as part of a collaborative project with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

The Apple Project

Four young students from West Suffolk College posing behind a table showing produce include chutney and juice from the Apple Project

Branded as the Apple Project, the learners learn how to press apple juice and how to preserve it through pasteurisation. The project is in its fourth year and involves up to 30 learners. The learners have one day a week to undertake work-related activities. The Apple Project and apple juice production takes place between September and December, with sales activities running consistently across the year. In addition to the apples that learners source directly from the orchard, the effective use of social media has led to lots of contributions of apples from the local community for the project.

Understanding food waste

To help ensure the long-term sustainability of the project, the Foundation Studies staff now have a full production setup in a mobile classroom, which includes an apple press and pasteuriser. As a result of the project, staff have observed that learners gain an awareness and understanding of the impact of food waste and how to prevent it. Importantly, they also acquire an understanding of the seasonality of food availability and production.

Local support for sustainable produce

The project has expanded in terms of the scope of its produce, which now includes other foodstuffs such as chutneys and jellies. Much of the produce is sold directly, but also through supportive local retail outlets. Learners also create gift collections of the produce in presentation sets which are for sale.

Gaining green skills, knowledge and awards

The range and depth of the activities develop the learners’ range work-readiness skills and their self-confidence. They also learn about health and safety, handling money and communication skills, as they often participate in local markets to sell their produce. The teachers and learners are particularly pleased that the produce is now sold through the local low waste shop in Trowbridge town centre.

The project was successful in gaining a Green Gowns Award in 2019. The Apple Project has received funding through Student Eats (now SOS-UK), a project which works with learners and staff at colleges and universities to create a more equitable food system by placing healthy and sustainable food at the heart of campuses across the UK.

Learners’ feedback

The positive impact of the project on the learners is evident in their feedback, and in the comments from the teachers:

“In the Apple Project, I have enjoyed being with my friends and doing the jet washing to clear the cutter. I have learnt how apple juice is being made.”

Wiltshire College learner

“I enjoyed cutting and scratting the apples – especially putting them into the machine. I have learnt from selling the apple juice to be kind to the customers.”

Wiltshire College learner

“The range and depth of the activities develop the learners’ work readiness skills and their self-confidence.”

Wiltshire College educator

“The Apple Project is amazing as it allows the students to work in a team, cooperatively, and showcases their brilliant skills. The project allows recycling of a resource – which adds to the sustainability of the venture.”

Wiltshire College educator

You can read the full case study and report here.

Read all case studies in this series:

For more information on ESD at the ETF, please visit our ESD web pages.