It’s been about a month since I joined the RSPB Sandwell Valley team and it'a been bit of a whirlwind so far. Having previously just finished my master’s degree in outdoor education, I was looking for a way to expand my experience and also to volunteer my time to a cause I believe in.

My role here is to assist the learning officer, Gretel Cooper, at Sandwell with the delivery of schools on reserve sessions, working with primary school children from around the area who come for a special experience at a nature reserve, many of them for the first time.

For me I think that has been the highlight so far, seeing how we are able to facilitate those critical first engagements with nature, watching a child squeal with excitement as they peer into a net they have fished out of the murky pond to find an alien creature wriggling around. Then to see them carefully scrutinising to find out what it is, not an alien but a fellow.

It’s also been exciting for me to discover for myself the different species of birds, minibeasts and pond dwellers that live at Sandwell Valley. I have only just begun to learn the abundance of life we have on the reserve. I’m a lifelong nature lover, particularly fauna so I love watching the robins flit to the feeding stations, the newts swimming between the reeds and the butterflies passing through the meadow. One of my favourite encounters was a couple of weeks ago when I went to observe an outreach session at a local school. I was just as excited as the children when we found a beautiful little frog seeking refuge beneath some deadwood in the school grounds.

Although I’m teaching, I’m also learning that there is so much for me to learn. I’m learning to identify different species of flora and fauna and their unique place in the delicate ecosystem. I’m learning new ways to provide nature connections and I’m learning all about the RSPB.

My first month has bought the opportunity to meet other interns from other RSPB reserves across the UK, to find out what it takes to be an educator in the outdoors, to watch learning in motion and most importantly, to provide a thread through which a connection to nature can be made. That’s what it is all about, no frills or exotic species required but simply the building up of a respect for the life that thrives beyond our urban worlds.

I’m eager to keep learning and providing opportunities for more connections and am excited for the next few months of new discoveries and wildlife encounters.

- Christina

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