I’ll be honest, 10 months ago the idea that there was a nature reserve in spitting distance to a big city like Birmingham, let alone nestled in between the M5 and the M6, boggled my mind. As someone who grew up in a small Somerset village and then spent 6 years surrounded by sea and sheep in Wales, somewhere like Birmingham was a bit of a culture shock to say the least.
Interning here at the RSPB has been a whirlwind and a half. I started in April and since then I have helped teach hundreds of children; held a newt for the first time; visited fellow RSPB sites across the country; gained a new appreciation for bees; got to turn my hand to multiple crafts….and let’s be honest, probably eaten far too many marshmallows!
My role as Education, Youth and Families Intern has meant that I have had the opportunity to work with a whole range of people. From regular and far flung visitors to all the schools from across the Midlands who come to test their brains. Somehow each day brings along something new to keep me on my toes. One minute I could be kneeling in mud, fishing out pond weed and the next I could be making Christmas decorations or crafting a ‘stained glass window’ out of a paper plate and some leaves.
Did you know that some bees can leave scents on flowers with no pollen to inform fellow bees?!
First official RSPB Photo!
Within my first couple of weeks I was developing my own lesson plan, getting to grips with the curriculum and introducing classes of excitable children to the awaiting wonders of the reserve. Depending on the day it could be the River Tame, our Brilliant Birds or the creatures that live here and their home.
Time to see if some dens are waterproof during a Wildcraft Tuesday.
It always makes me laugh when a group of children gasp in excitement when they see a squirrel swinging round a bird feeder or when there is a collective “ewwww” as 30 children see you sifting through freshly scooped pond weed – slime and all. It makes it even better knowing that within the next 10 minutes they are going to be in the exact same position, hands full and big smiles.
Even when the terms have finished, there is still plenty to keep me busy. Whether it was taking part in national campaigns such as the ‘Big Wild Sleepout’, getting festive at the Christmas Fair or taking a craft break at lunch to make ‘spooky eyes’ there is always something going on. Not to mention, the time I spent with volunteers running the Nature Explorer Days during holidays.
Getting to build dens, light fires, hunt for minibeasts as well as act like a big kid and channel my inner Blue Peter crafting skills was always a highlight of my week.
The things you can do with a torch, scissors and a toilet paper roll.
I feel so lucky to have been able to spend my time here. From the very first day I felt welcome and part of the team. It didn’t matter that my ID-ing skills left a lot to be desired, or that I was a brand new face, everyone had a smile and gladly assisted me in pointing out my blue tit from my great tit. A stand-out moment happened my first week. It was my first shift in the Bird Hide and, on my way down I walked into another volunteer who I hadn’t met yet. Within the space of 30 seconds he unleashed a verbal fact file on 3 types of bee which were currently resident on our Bee Bank. Then within a flash he was gone! I was left with my head buzzing (excuse the pun!) full of new facts on a subject that I knew very little before that moment. I knew then that I had found a gem.
That’s a wonderful thing about working here, everyone has a speciality to bring to the table. Whether it’s a fascination in bees and moths; fungi knowledge; wetland birds or even the best way to roast a marshmallow.
The RSPB as an organisation, let alone the staff and volunteers here, are so eager to help and pass on their knowledge. Combine this with their infectious energy and it’s not hard to see why people flock here. With such an encouraging ethos, I have been able to gain confidence in leading school groups and developing events alongside gaining training in safeguarding, wildlife enquires and preparing for onward career options. I even had the opportunity to gain my Brushcutters license.
Some of the RSPB Sandwell Team still beaming after our Big Wild Pyjama Party!
If, like me, you like to learn about a new environment while passing on your own passion in a beautiful place, why not get in contact? Visit, volunteer or even apply to be a Leaning Assistant Intern with the RSPB.
At the very least I can guarantee an increase of the pictures you own of that incredible view.
Stunning Sandwell Sunset.
A big thank you to everyone here at RSPB Sandwell Valley. You’ve been awesome.
If you’re interested in interning with us here at RSPB Sandwell you can find out more on the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering-fundraising/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/opportunities/8507/ or email christine.Infante@rspb.org.uk for details.
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