The following post was written by Sarah Mitchell, our Youth & Education Officer in Wales.
Many schools find it difficult to get children engaged with nature. This is often because the school grounds do not lend themselves to the activities that would get the children engaged and excited about the world around them. We need to therefore find a way that we can give the children access to these experiences but baring in mind school budgets and the pressures that they are under to ‘tick boxes’ in the curriculum.
We were approached by the friends of Nant Fawr with a suggestion that we could work in partnership to set up a session with the school where they brought children to the green space which was conveniently just down the road from the school. This got us thinking; if this worked could it be something that we offer to other schools in the future – allowing us to maybe gain the interest of schools who before wouldn’t have enquired about our sessions.
Working closely with the school and the friends of Nant Fawr we set about creating an itinerary. In this instance the school was doing a ‘Big Schools’ Birdwatch.’ It was decided that we would conduct a session within the school grounds and then again in the green space.
Nant Fawr originally enquired about us creating a ‘spotter sheet’ with all the different types of birds the children may have seen as they have such a fast variety of habitat. After some discussion it was agreed that it would be more beneficial to the project and the school if they used the same spotter sheet so that they could do a direct comparison when they returned to the classroom, discussing verbally any different birds they may have seen and using the RSPB website to show them pictures and information about the species not on the spotter sheet.
Big School Birdwatch resources
Birds By Name
We are now in discussions with Nant Fawr about creating the spotter sheet they requested so that they can continue to offer sessions to the school without the RSPB, giving the children as many opportunities to experience nature as possible.
There were no major problems in the planning of this session however the amount of people involved made it extra important that everyone was kept up to date with everything that was going on and any changes that may have occurred. As there were so many people involved there were often several conversations happening through different people. When we arrange to do this again in the future we would need to look at who is going to be the main point of contact and make sure that all conversations go through this person.
The session itself went to plan even though it was a little chilly and the children didn’t see as many birds as we maybe expected.
Please see below a copy of the itinerary sent to the school and the volunteers.
Wednesday 11th Feb itinerary
9:00 – Arrive at school and start PowerPoint presentation as soon as possible.
10:00 – 10:30 - Spend ½ an hour spotting birds in the schools grounds
10:30 – 11:00 - Toilet and snack before walking over to Nant Fawr – arriving at 11:00 at the latest.
11:00 – 12:45 – Children in groups of 10 set around 3 specific spots children rotated after 10/15 minutes so that they get to experience the different habitats that Nant Fawr have to offer.
12:45-12:20 – walk back to school and discuss their results; comparing and contrasting with the school grounds.
This was written specifically for the school as they had to be back for dinner by 12:20 but gives a basic outline of how the session would be carried out in any school.
10 minutes was definitely the limit for the children on this occasion before rotating as it was very cold and the birds were staying well hidden. (The children did get the opportunity to hear several birds singing though as they were very vocal despite being well hidden.) The 15 minutes may have been achieved had the weather been better as the children continued to be engaged once they had moved to the next area.
Because of the time constrictions we decided to stick to 3 specific areas in Nant Fawr. There were many more places the children could have explored if the time had been available. This is something that we would assess individually with each school and each green space, taking into considerations the different habitats that might be available and the time frame we have to work with.
After the session we sent the school an email asking for feedback on the session. The member of staff asked the children what they thought and she sent us a summary of their replies.
They thought it was interesting to see such different birds, hear them and see them fly.
Enjoyed having time to freely look at the birds.
Volunteers/RSPB were very helpful and knowledgeable.
They would share what they learnt with their families and take them to the woods.
Thought that the sheets were very useful.
Liked the opportunity to buy the badges!!
Some of the children used the website.
It links to the local area/environment/eco awards and sustainability. We are going to Cardiff Bay so we can look at the birds there.
When we returned to the school we used the website to show the children the different birds we had seen that weren’t on the spotter sheet. The teacher was very impressed with the website and was keen to link it to their school blog so that the parents could look at it with their children also.
As it was the first time for us to visit the school we decided to give the school the opportunity to have a box of pin badges to sell to the children and the parents. I have had a message off the class teacher saying that the pin badges are selling really well. This is something that we are now looking to do with every school that is on their first visit. We then arrange with the school to pick up the box and the money on the second visit.
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The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
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