Pupils from primary schools across England and Wales are getting closer to nature thanks to an exciting partnership between the RSPB and Aldi.
Rizwan, a Y3 student from Oldham, exclaimed, "I'm not scared any more — I’ve never held a worm before and I thought it'd bite me but it just tickles!"
The new free outreach sessions, currently available in 11 cities across the UK, see RSPB trained educators going into primary schools and working with teachers and pupils in their school grounds to deliver a series of fun and engaging outdoor activities. Watch our promotional video to find out what teachers have to say about the outreach sessions:
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 90 minute sessions; delivered by fantastic teams of trained educators:
Giving Nature a Home — helps pupils map and score their school grounds for nature, identifying habitats that already exist and spotting opportunities for creating more.
Bioblitz — encourages pupils to hunt for plants and minibeasts under every rock, bush and doormat.
Big Schools' Birdwatch - using ID guides and binoculars, pupils will identify and record the birds they spot around their school.
After a Giving Nature a Home session in Bournemouth the class teacher enthused, “Thank you for a great day. It fitted in perfectly with our topic and engaged the children well. They really enjoyed the experience of looking closely at the environment around the school building. The session was well -resourced and the RSPB were excellent!”
To see if your city is offering Aldi-funded outreach and to book a free 90 minute session for your school please visit rspb.org.uk/schoolsoutreach
If your part of the country doesn't yet have free RSPB outreach please remember that Big Schools' Birdwatch is open to every single school as a self-guided citizen-science opportunity. Sign up your school here.
A new study has shown for the first time that children’s connection to nature is directly related to their health and wellbeing.
The research undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast for the RSPB involved 2,400 children aged eight to 12 years, as part of the annual Kids’ Life and Times questionnaire.
It builds on our 2013 report which established national baselines for UK children’s connection to nature – in other words, their deeply-held feelings about nature.
Now, the work in Northern Ireland has gone one step further, by also asking children about their health and quality of life. It has found that (see page 14):
“connection to nature and children’s rating of their health and well-being are correlated – children who are more connected to nature rate their health and well-being as significantly higher.”
This is clearly great news for children; as well as for all those making the case for connecting them with nature!
However, the analysis by Queen’s University Belfast has also reinforced our 2013 finding that only one-quarter of children in Northern Ireland has a level of connection to nature that the RSPB considers ‘realistic and achievable’ for every child.
We believe that we all – charities, governments, schools, youth groups, families and individuals – have a role to play in connecting all children to nature; and inspiring and enabling them to help save it.
Do you want to give children an opportunity to connect with nature? If you’re a teacher (of have the opportunity to influence a teacher) consider taking part in our Big Schools’ Birdwatch! This simple survey for schools takes place after Christmas, from the 4th January to the 12th February, and involves classes spending one lesson (or lunchtime) counting the birds that visit their school grounds. Register at rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch for a free bird poster.
Help us engage young people with nature!
Martha Devine, RSPB Scotland’s Community Engagement Officer in Shetland describes her delight at receiving a Shetland Environmental Award for innovative work with schools and explains more about the project.
Yesterday, Karen Mackelvie our Community Learning Officer went to receive a Shetland Environmental Award. She was thrilled to accept the honour which was for RSPB Scotland’s (mainly her) work facilitating the Nature Friendly Schools Project (now called Giving Nature a Home) at Brae Primary and other schools throughout Shetland. The award recognises projects which have contributed to Shetland’s rich and diverse environment whilst demonstrating sustainability, innovation and best practice.
Martha Devine (left) and Karen Mackelvie (right) delighted after receiving the award.
We were really pleased that Brae and Whiteness Primary schools also received awards for their hard work and for getting parents and the wider community involved in the final day of the project – a ‘Day of Action’ that transformed their school grounds.
Getting stuck in at the 'Day of Action' at Brae Primary
The Nature Friendly Schools project (Giving Nature a Home) is all about connecting children to nature using play. It gets classes thinking about their environment and making improvements for wildlife by providing more homes for nature in the school grounds. We’re talking ponds, bug hotels, wildflowers and long grass areas, bird feeding stations and frog pads – to name a few.
Buggingham palace and giant wood pile at Whiteness Primary
But the Nature Friendly Schools project doesn’t stop there. Research has shown that children build deep and lasting connections with nature, not when they are shown something by an adult but when they discover it themselves during play. So this project also encourages schools to allow children the opportunity to build a love for wildlife through connecting with nature during play. In the nature areas we’ve created things like stepping stones, climbing trees, den building material and shelters made from upturned boats, recycled pallets and tree trunks.
Stepping stones at Whiteness Primary and den building at Brae Primary
How does the project work?
After an introductory session with the school which includes risk assessment and a look at the science behind the project, RSPB Scotland runs three sessions with the bairns (children). Session one is an audit of the school grounds. We do the Big Schools Birdwatch (rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch) followed by a soil and earthworm audit. Then we map the school grounds. Different habitats are identified as well as places the bairns most like or don’t like to play. Session two is an introduction to project planning. Using cooperative learning techniques the bairns come up with a wish list for the school grounds and work out everything they need to deliver it. Then they write to the community, parents, grandparents, friends, local businesses to ask for help with everything they need for their final session – the Day of Action.
So far we’ve completed three ‘Days of Action’ in Shetland. Following requests from the bairns, all the items needed were donated and time and skills were offered up willingly on the day by folk in the community. Some of the men-folk were especially glad for a chance to help out in the school with something that doesn’t involve baking or knitting. A request for dumper trucks, diggers and tools was more appealing to them! The results have been quite breathtaking. The energy generated contagious. On every occasion we have been staggered by all that has been achieved in just one short school day. By working together, we have successfully created homes for wildlife and places designed by the children where they can get closer to nature.
So what’s next?
Whilst the ‘Day of Action’ marks the end of our part in the project, it’s only really the beginning for the schools. The project to create a nature friendly school is ongoing and indeed many new play items and homes for nature have been added to the nature areas through further ‘Days of Action’ organised by the school. As for us, we’re looking forward to starting two new projects this winter – at Dunrossness Primary in the south of Shetland and Mid Yell Junior High in the north.