To celebrate Volunteer’s Week, Wendy Owen shares her story of volunteering for the RSPB as part of our schools’ outreach project through the RSPB ALDI Connecting Children to Nature partnership.
This project has given me the chance to share my knowledge and my love of nature with primary school children from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. When I volunteered at Terrace Road school - an old Victorian school with a tarmac playground and enormous retaining walls all around. We stood in the playground desperate to find anything to show the children – there were a few gulls overhead but next to nothing to be seen in the yard. So, I took the children across to the stone wall and found cobwebs between some of the stones. I showed them to the children and they were amazed that anything was living on that wall in such an apparently hostile environment. They were so excited!
Primary age children are very open to new ideas and experiences. I have found the greatest pleasure in finding and showing different creatures to these children. My 90-year-old mother was astonished to know that I was handling slugs to show children how beautiful they actually are. It is amazing how many children ask if they can touch the slug and if can they stroke it. And when told they can gently stroke the slug they do so in a caring and tender way.
Many of my friends who are themselves passionate about the natural world have certain species which they will happily kill – slugs and snails, wasps, greenfly and ants etc. One of my most important personal missions has been to get across to children how everything has its place in nature and that killing some creatures deprives others of food. With any luck, messages go home too, particularly about the dangers of using poisons to kill so called “pests”.
My motivation comes from the joy of the children when they find something as common as a woodlouse or earthworm – it is as if they have discovered something very special and rare. I’m sure they have never looked closely at these animals before – some will even have trodden on them deliberately!
When taking part in a BioBlitz the children are desperate to find anything and are happy to root around on their hands and knees looking. Their enthusiasm and interest is contagious! I am also pleased to have the chance to spread the word about the value of the school grounds and help to influence what might be done to improve them for wildlife.
This school used to have swifts nesting in the eaves of the roof, but the school was re-roofed several years ago without making provision for the swifts. I told the children of this and they were very disappointed that the swifts were no longer there. I thought I would use the opportunity to pass this information on to the teacher. She was very enthusiastic and with any luck at all there is a possibility that swift boxes could be put up. That would really be the icing on the cake!
Getting feedback and making a change
After her visit to the school Wendy received some feedback from the teacher showing the impact she had on the school.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the sessions yesterday. It was a great day. I have signed up for the Wild Challenge and have got the go ahead for an after-school Biodiversity Club! I’m inspired…we are doing a case study next week on Swifts.”
For more content check back daily throughout the week on the community pages and the celebrating our volunteers page.
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Find more about National Volunteers’ week
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