The sun sparkles off the lake as I make my way to the new “office”- Saltholme RSPB Nature reserve. Its mid-May. Spring has awoken all over the reserve, Hawthorns fizz with champagne white blossom and tingle with life as birds and insects alike thrive within its undergrowth. By the ponds, flashes of brilliant blues and reds can be seen as damselflies emerge from aquatic hiding. The occasional electric buzz rings through the air as four spotted chaser dragonflies clash wings mid-flight while all the time, high up in skies, terns twist and soar and fill the air with hopeful calls of the arrival of warmer, longer, sunnier days. The first few weeks as part of the learning team here has been everything I hoped for- exciting, challenging, rewarding; fantastic.
It all seemed like a crazy idea back in January when I first saw an advert for a learning internship with the RSPB. Nervously, I read through the requirements, hoping I could tick off enough to apply and trying not to worry about any of the difficulties I’d have to work through. Nature has always been close to my heart, from exploring my local stomping grounds in Kent as a child, holidays to the Lake District, to more recently, even more regular trips to the Lakes, Yorkshire dales and closer to home here in County Durham and the North York Moors. As a fell runner, I’m often out on the tops before the crowds and this time of year is simply fantastic for wildlife spotting, whether hearing the plaintive calls of Curlews on the moors, or the frenetic songs of Skylarks, or a dazzling display from flying oystercatchers. However, my career is a far cry from wild places- a musician, a Violinist, and also a music teacher, found teaching anything from Reception music classes, through to 18 year olds preparing to take their studies to the next level at University. So it was with feelings of excitement and trepidation, in equal measures, that I walked through the entrance to the interview. Did I know enough? Could I apply my skills as a teacher to a different environment? Could I prove that I was more than willing to learn?
Interview accomplished and here we are, six weeks in, and what a time it has been. I’ve learned how to teach pond dipping and sweep net a meadow, discovered mini-beasts from aquatic depths and long grasses, and learned lots of new games to teach about the natural world around us. It’s difficult to pinpoint any one favourite part of this journey so far. The day always starts with an introduction to the reserve and it is wonderful to see the children excited to discover new things. We ask the children how many new mini-beasts or plants they think we will discover during the day- so far we’ve hit the target each time. I’ve noticed some students visit with feelings similar to mine on interview day- the great unknown, a mixture of excitement and fear. However, part of the pleasure is watching this fear dispel into intrigue, investigation, and enthusiasm.
Introductions and predications over and its hands on for the rest of the day, whether pond dipping, discovering land mini-beasts, birds or learning about plants. Peering into trays of pond water, the look of amazement on the students faces when they first find something moving in their pond dipping tray is fabulous. It is hard to believe something as alien as a damselfly nymph will eventually turn into the beautiful winged insect we see later in the year, or that Caddisfly larva create their own houses from sticks and silt at the bottom of the pond. During the first few weeks, the days warmed up and plants burst into life. Dandelions lit up the paths with sunshine yellow, pom-pom flowers and perhaps a favourite memory of the first few weeks is the looks of joy on the faces of a class of reception children as they queued up to see a hoverfly enjoying a tasty snack and a sunbathe on a dandelion.
As we wave the children home for another time I am looking forward to the rest of my placement here, it really is a wonderful way to spend the week.
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