If there was ever a good time for all to be closed then this year was it. We have undergone a huge regeneration, thanks to our partnership with Fylde Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The £1.46 million project has provided a whole new suite of fantastic facilities. Where we once ran our school visits from the rather small combined retail and education centre, we are now blessed with an entire space to ourselves. The Watersports Centre next door to the newly re-vamped RSPB shop and Visitor Centre is purpose built and hosts excellent facilities with ample toilets, handwashing and storage. The purpose built classrooms are light and airy and await the sounds and buzz of children.
Being on the Ribble Estuary graces us with an exclusive suite of sessions too. Our most acclaimed and popular sessions are our Mud Habitat Study sessions. We don wellies and trudge through the unique environment that are the mudflats of the Ribble Estuary. It’s like nothing that many children have ever seen before and makes a fantastic comparison to other habitats they have studied in their school grounds. The specific adaptations of the creatures that live here are immediately obvious and through touching, identifying and observing children quickly work out why the creatures have evolved to be so. Food chains and ecosystems are also discussed. The awe evident on the faces of the children as they watch cockles and peppery furrow shells (or scrobicularia) burrow back into their damp world is something I will never tire of.
Being coastal we make the most of it. Our other popular sessions for keystages 1 and 2 are beach based. Taking in the physical and human aspects of the landscape and again include identification of coastal wildlife that can be seen as well incorporating some teamwork and engineering.
As well as visits from schools closer to home we receive visits from schools from all over the Northwest. Many children are experiencing the coast for the first time, the feel of the sand, the sound of the sea and this vibrant habitat buzzing with life. It’s not just a trip out but for many a new life experience and that’s what our outdoor education is all about. Touching, feeling, seeing, smelling real life in real places and making connections to the world we live in.
It was great to welcome our local primary school down here from Ansdell Primary last Friday with their Year 2 class. It wasn't quite the June day we were expecting, with persistent drizzle most of the morning and a chill in the air. We did not let this dampen our spirits however. As well as undertaking a watersports session with Outdoor Education Northwest they also ventured onto the beach with our Going to the Seaside session. I was truly impressed with the way the children engaged, they were keen and eager, I think being outside of their bubbled space and in the freedom is something that has been deeply missed for children and teaching staff alike during these times. They searched with interest and curiosity and then used our identification charts to work out what they found. Enthusiasm peaking when we found a sea potato, and giving those with a finely tuned interest an opportunity to share their knowledge, something that couldn't happen in this hands on way in a classroom.
I've since been informed that the fresh sea and the hands on busy day tired those children out, fulfilling their needs to explore and be physical beings in a natural outdoor space, something that has been distinctly lacking during the times of this pandemic. We have also vowed to work closely with this school who have an ethos of using the outdoors as much as they can for their learning.
This visit and others I have been part of with our colleagues at Leighton Moss have really hit home with me. Throughout the pandemic, children have been cooped up, initially at home and then at school, due to bubble restrictions. They have lost their freedoms, only allowed to mix with certain children in certain spaces at certain times. These children relished their time outside, in a different space, seeing different things and being in nature. It hits home how important outside experiences are for children. We work in this environment all the time, we probably take it for granted, for many children, school and the experiences it provides may be the only chance some children get to explore these diverse environments and we simply cannot wait to once more welcome as many children to our sites as we can. It's not just about the learning, but the joy, awe and wonder we see on their faces.
Photos taken by Jo with thanks to Ansdell Primary School
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