We hear from Mrs Lowe, lower primary teacher from Aitkenhead Primary School in Glasgow, about how her class started noticing more and more about the nature in their school grounds. Inspired by pledges to help nature through COP26, the learners are leading the way by putting their pledges into action and going for gold Wild Challenge Award.
"Over the last couple of years it has become increasingly important for me to include as much outdoor learning as possible with my Primary 1 class as the many benefits to the children learning outdoors became apparent very quickly. I have observed the children thrive and their independence grow. Their curiosity and understanding of the natural environment and their responsibility within it has also grown and developed. I have found that this learning links very naturally to the curriculum. I have developed a new confidence in allowing the children the freedom to learn, explore and lead their own learning with the knowledge that they are undertaking the experiences and outcomes appropriate for their level in a more meaningful way.
We used the RSPB Wild Challenge as a starting point to develop our Outdoor area. The idea of an award really appealed to the children and created excitement and enthusiasm. We already had an insect hotel but it was very sparse. We discussed why this might not be an inviting environment for bugs and insects to live in. The children related this to being in their homes all warm and cosy with comfortable places to sleep and sit. The children then searched around for things to fill the insect hotel with. As they were placing objects inside, they were talking about why it was a good choice e.g. ‘The spiders can climb in these holes in the pot.’; ‘Animals will like to hide under this brick and then they can climb up through the holes.’; ‘This is a cosy stick to lie under.’ This was helping to develop the children’s language and communication skills and allowing them to explain their understanding in a relaxed environment, which is very important at their stage of development.
The children instinctively became more curious. They wanted to find out what was already living in our area. They used magnifying glasses and bug catchers and went on a hunt for wiggly worms and enormous spiders. They were excited to look more closely at jaggy nettles and were able to use descriptive vocabulary to describe them. They found a few slugs but were disappointed not to find very many creatures so we discussed why it might not be a good place for insects to live and described the areas that they found the slugs. The children responded with ‘It isn’t warm enough.’; ‘There are no hiding places.’; ‘It was dark under the log’. The children wanted to create an environment suitable for insects so we looked at the RSPB website to find ways to make homes for animals. The children decided on a log house, a rock pile and a beetle bucket. Over a few days the children worked together to source materials, find the perfect location and build these homes together. Watching the children problem solve, communicate, build positive relationships and work together was truly lovely to watch. They finally used their knowledge of sounds to write labels for the homes so that other children in the school knew what they were and could be respectful when playing close to them. The children had a real sense of achievement when they completed them and are excited to see if they have made welcoming homes for insects and bugs.
The Outdoor environment has been a great place for the children to learn and explore their senses, which is part of our Science Curriculum. They used the herbs from the herb garden, which were planted by last year’s Primary 1 class as part of their planting and growing topic, to taste and smell; they made a music centre from resources they could find outside; and described all of the textures of the rocks, trees, flowers and leaves. Exploring the topic in this way allowed the children’s learning to be more relevant and meaningful.
When looking at the ground, one of the children mentioned that it was very hard and that might be why we couldn’t find any worms. This led to a discussion about the types of animals who like to eat worms. The children knew that birds ate worms, which led to a discussion about why the cold weather would make it difficult for the birds. The children then decided that they wanted to make bird feeders to help the birds find food. Consequently, the children made cheerio bird feeders and have continued to restock these weekly to ensure the birds have lots to eat. The children have naturally become curious about birds through our time spent outdoors and have learned about a few garden birds that we have spotted on our school grounds. This will continue to develop over time and the children are excited to participate in the Big Schools Birdwatch.
During COP26 a few classes from the school were involved in a very special project. Inspired by the poem, “Conference of the birds”, the young learners made origami birds and wrote a pledge inside them to contribute towards climate change. Each pledge and bird made its journey to the Pipe Factory in Glasgow to join the murmur of other birds from across the globe. The countries involved, such as Canada, Chile, India and many more, all came together to make this murmuration of origami pledges in Glasgow for COP26. This was such an amazing project to be involved in and everyone loved the story and the purpose behind the project.
The Wild Challenge has really helped encourage the children to get outdoors and find ways to make a change. The sense of achievement and excitement they feel when they complete an activity and send it to the RSPB has really motivated them and encouraged them to think about nature and their responsibility within it. We are aiming for a Gold Award!"
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