In the run up to Christmas this year we are planning on having a bit of a fun on Twitter trying to re-write ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ so that it encompasses all of nature. Every working day from the 4th to the 19th of December we will post a single line from the song, and ask our followers on twitter (you) to reply with their own version. For example, when we tweet ‘ten lords-a-leaping’, someone could reply with ‘ten salmon leaping’, or if we tweeted ‘five golden rings’, someone could reply with ‘five goldcrests’ or ‘five goldfinches’. You’re only limited by your imagination! (Well, and the 144 character limit for tweets).
On the 20th of December we will pick our favourite line from each day and will string them together into a completely new version of the song, which will be published here on the Learning Community blog. For each line that is chosen for the final song the author will receive a book entitled ‘100 Bizarre Animals’ in the new year. The books have kindly donated by our friends at Bradt.
Follow us on @RSPB_Learning to get started and be in with a chance of winning!
Terms and conditions
1. Entries must be received via Twitter before midnight on each given day.
2. Any entry which is incomplete, illegible or late will be deemed invalid in the sole discretion of the RSPB.
3. This prize draw is open to UK residents only.
4. There is no cash alternative to the competition prize.
5. Winners will be notified via twitter within 28 days of the closing date.
6. Prizes will be delivered within 28 days of notification.
7. The results and winner’s name will be published on the RSPB’s Twitter page.
8. The editor’s decision on all matters affecting this competition is final and legally binding. No correspondence regarding the results of the draw will be entered into.
9. Any RSPB employee or anyone directly connected with the organisation or their immediate family will be ineligible to enter.
10. Any winner who has not responded to notification within 21 days will forfeit their prize; a replacement winner will be selected from other entrants.
11. Entrants can enter the competition every day but they will only ever be chosen as a winner once.
12. If for any reason we cannot offer the prizes stipulated, the RSPB will supply an alternative for the same value.
13. Full copyright title remains with the author/owner. Please see full terms below regarding your entry and potential use of the entry.
The RSPB may retain your contribution and may choose to display your entry on a website. The RSPB may also publish your contribution in other media; where possible we will approach you directly to confirm your permission for publication. The RSPB reserves the right to remove contributions that it considers to be contrary to the spirit of the terms and conditions of submission, including submissions it considers to be objectionable or that violate copyright. The RSPB reserves the right to edit and alter submissions.
Terms and Conditions
By submitting your contribution to the RSPB you agree to be legally bound by these terms and conditions;
Any contribution must be your own original work, it must not infringe the rights of third parties including copyright, trade mark, trade secrets, privacy, publicity, personal or proprietary rights;
The RSPB’s rights in relation to your contribution
Publication of your contribution will be at the RSPB’s sole discretion;
The RSPB reserves the right to edit, adapt, move or delete any contribution accepted. We will try to credit authors where possible, but may not always do so;
Save as expressly provided for in these terms neither the RSPB nor its trading subsidiary(ies) shall be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage or for any costs, claims or demands of any nature whatsoever arising directly or indirectly out of the use of your contribution or any part thereof;
From time to time, the RSPB may run competitions, free prize draws and promotions in connection with its conservation work. In each case these will be subject to additional competition terms which will be made available at the appropriate time.
These Terms and Conditions (as amended from time to time) constitute the entire agreement between you and the RSPB concerning your contribution to “RSPB Learning’s Twelve Days of Christmas”. The RSPB reserves the right to update these Terms and Conditions from time to time and any updated version will be effective as soon as it is published on the Website.
This is the second of two blogs featuring RSPB Mersehead by Juliet Robertson. A trained primary school teacher and former head teacher, Juliet Robertson is one of Scotland’s leading education consultants in the field of outdoor learning. She is passionate about enabling schools and early years settings to provide quality learning and play outside. Her social enterprise consultancy, Creative STAR Learning Company, works behind the scenes supporting and developing outdoor learning and play at a national, local and school level mainly in Scotland, so that learning is effective and children get engaged and connected to the world around them. Her approach to developing learning and play outside advocates ongoing improvements to school grounds, the use of the local area, natural materials and the re-use of unwanted materials. Juliet has an excellent website and blog “I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!”.
Recently I blogged about RSPB Mersehead reserve in Dumfries & Galloway and the accessible wildlife garden which took the art of container planting to a new height. This was not the only gem of a wildlife area. I found myself drooling over the spacious bird feeding garden. Most bird feeding areas I've seen focus on artificial feeders and pay little attention to the aesthetics of the surroundings. Here I think Ella McLellan, RSPB Mersehead's Lead field teacher, has demonstrated that bird feeding areas can be visually attractive, simple and so much more than a few hanging feeders...
The attention to detail has been super and worthy of schools and nurseries taking notes to adapt to their own outdoor spaces. It is reminiscent of a zen garden owing to the placement of the features and stone. Every item is there to attract and benefit visiting birds.
Firstly, you can see that the ground cover is gravel rather than soil or bark chips. This is deliberate in that it is harder for seed which falls onto the gravel to grow. It is a more hygienic surface. It is easy to move the bird feeders around to avoid build up of spilled food and therefore potential diseases for birds.
The landscape has been created on several levels. After all, different birds have different approaches to finding food. Some birds such as blackbirds like to gather from the ground. Others like to hide and find food in and amongst plants. Moveable logs near to ground level can be seen in various parts of the garden. Bird food is put into the natural cracks, lines and crevices for species such as nuthatches.
There are forked branches sticking up. These are used for hanging food. Acrobatic garden birds such as great tits and blue tits can access the food hung here.
At the edges of the gravel are an over hanging tree and hedge which provide protection for the birds if they feel threatened. All the plants in the raised beds provide food too. The surrounding flower beds are planted with nectar rich species, which provide foraging areas for bees , butterflies, hoverflies and other insects. These in turn provide additional food for birds, particularly during the breeding season as young birds are fed mainly insects until they leave the nest. Lead field teacher Ella McLellan is quite strict about what plants are allowed in this area, and has in the past asked for things to be removed which although they may have looked 'pretty' did not provide enough 'feeding' potential.
A useful webpage to visit with more detailed information about feeding birds can be found on the RSPB website. The benefits of a bird feeding area are numerous. Firstly, by planting bird friendly plants and native trees, flowers and shrubs, the biodiversity of an area is increased. This will help attract more insects and other animals too. So children have a greater chance to observe and learn about a larger range of species.
Secondly, the birds come to your school or outdoor space! Give birds time to learn of your feeding area. Do not expect an instant flocking of birdlife.
If you have a bird hide or place to watch the birds, then all sorts of curriculum activities can arise. For example:
Data Handling: Ask your class what sort of information about birds can be gathered by watching visiting birds come to the area. This might extend to discovering favourite foods, places to eat, different behaviours and the variety of species. The RSPB run a national Big Schools Birdwatch during January and February each year. THere are lots of online resources to support the birdwatch. This includes whiteboard friendly graphs and data gathering applications.
Science: How easy is it to identify a bird from a chart or key? What tips and advice can children offer? Which is the best way to identify a bird? It can be helpful for children to learn the correct names for the different parts of a birds body. This leads to more accurate descriptions and identification.
Children can also find out about bird friendly plants. For example, growing sunflowers is beneficial as the seeds are a common bird food. Having a compost bin or wormery can provide a source of worms for robins and other garden birds.
Art & Design: Children may enjoy sketching birds they see in the feeding area. Have A3 clipboards for this purpose. Viewing cards - simply a square cardboard frame, can help children focus on a particular bird.
Technologies: Children can research bird feeders and water vessels online and then create their own from junk or natural materials. Which ideas are the simplest yet most effective? What food can we put out for birds which is also suitable for human consumption? Is food which is good for humans, always good for birds?
Religious and Moral Education: Caring for creatures is part of most religions' beliefs. What routines need to be put in place to ensure that a bird feeding area is well-maintained and looked after?
All-in-all, a project is simple, requires few resources and will capture the imagination and interest of many children. Feed the birds and feed children's curiosity about the world...
Our sincere thanks to Juliet for writing this second blog and letting us share it here!
Here’s something a bit different – volunteering that grown-ups and children can do together. Parents and children, grandparents and children or any other combination of adults and children! It’s a chance to get outside, connect with nature, and help us give it a home. These are sessions for families who want to do something together to help nature. There is no charge for any of the sessions, but please book your place in advance so that we know who is coming. We’ll show you and the children how to use grown-up tools safely – and we’ll provide light refreshments to keep you going. And if the children have had enough of the work, they can explore the reserve, as long as you are with them and take responsibility for all the children you bring with you. You can come for the whole day or just the morning – but don’t forget to bring your lunch!
There are three events coming up. If you want to get involved, get in touch to book your places.
Saturday 7 December, Hedge laying, 10am – 3pm, Exe Estuary, Exminster, Devon. T: 01392 432691. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday 8 December, Help the Heath, 10am – 3pm, Hazeley Heath, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire. T: 01252 795632. E: Isabel.email@example.com
Sunday 8 December, Join our Workparty, 9.30am – 3pm, Aylesbeare Common, nr Newton Poppleford, Devon. T: 01392 432691. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can bring children of any age with you, though we recommend 5 years and over, to give them a good chance of being able to do something practical to help give nature a home. If you have gardening gloves, please bring them with you.