Tim Webb, Communications Officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, explores RSPB’s work with schools.
“Get out!” is what the RSPB wants teachers to shout at their students as part of a movement to use outdoor spaces as classrooms. The conservation charity has been delivering outdoor education on many of its reserves for years, but is now expanding its delivery thanks to a partnership with the supermarket chain, Aldi.
The three-year partnership will see Aldi donate all profits from its carrier bag sales to the RSPB. Money raised will allow the RSPB and Aldi to work together to provide opportunities for more than half-a-million children to engage with nature. It will also help improve children’s health and well-being while inspiring them to love and understand the natural world.
RSPB’s Schools Outreach Development Officer, Janet Watt said:
“Children across the country are loving getting out into their playgrounds and discovering spiders and slugs in all the hidden corners. UK wildlife is in serious trouble: around 60 per cent of bees, birds, bugs and mammals are declining and the natural places they depend on are vanishing. Engaging the next generation with nature is vital. Our partnership will help to give nature a home in school grounds and local green spaces that will help turn the fortunes of UK wildlife around.”
Currently, schools in 11 cities across the UK can choose from three sessions in their school grounds; delivered by fantastic teams of trained educators. Each session involves at least 30 minutes of outdoor discovery, giving pupils first-hand experience of the natural world.
Giving nature a home
If you create a habitat map of your school, what does it look like? Does it have all bricks and no bird boxes, all tarmac and no habitats? This session is designed to help pupils map their school for nature – identifying habitats that already exist and spotting opportunities for creating more. Armed with a scorecard, pupils can score their school for nature and work out how to make it more wildlife-friendly, and hopefully more attractive for children too!
Big Schools’ Birdwatch
Using ID guides and with some RSPB expertise, children will be helped to spot, identify, count and record the birds around their school. If this session is delivered in the first half of the spring term, the data can be compared to other schools in the area and fed into a database as part of the national Big Schools’ Birdwatch. In this way, children and their school will be taking part in the world’s biggest birdwatch, and contributing to a well-established citizen science project.
It is likely your school is already giving nature a home, but what wildlife and where? Using RSPB nature detective equipment, pupils will have help to hunt for plants and minibeasts under every rock, bush and doormat. Bioblitzes can unearth some amazing results – there could be dozens of species of wildlife in corners the children have never thought of. This session offers pupils the chance to investigate micro-habitats around their school to find species adapted to different environments and to identify them using RSPB ‘Spot It’ guides. This session is available all year round: in autumn there may be more animals tucked away for warmth and in summer animals will be more active!
This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 111). To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.