Taking part in this years Big Schools' Birdwatch has involved the whole school community and given the children of Bedales prep School, Dunhurst fantastic opportunities to bring their learning to life.
More than 200 birdfeeders have been made in one week by school children as part of the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch.
Every pupil at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst embraced the challenge of getting closer to nature and taking part in the world’s biggest school wildlife survey in February.
Pupils at Dunhurst already have an active relationship with nature and the school boasts an Outdoor Work department where pupils are encouraged to get involved with a range of activities from creating a compost heap to livestock management.
Head of Outdoor Work, Ryan Walsh said: “Dunhurst pupils have really taken the RSPB’s mission to heart and it has raised the profile of birdwatching around the school – we’re lucky in Hampshire to be surrounded by a wealth of nature and the children have been asking lots of questions and wanted me to send them the recipes and instructions for the birdfeeders so they could replicate them elsewhere.”
Ryan introduced the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch in an assembly on 1 February and after a bird identification quiz announced his challenge: for every person in the school to make a birdfeeder to put up in their own garden.
Ryan continued: “The idea was that by taking the birdfeeders home, we would be helping to give nature a home in a wider area. All of our lessons in Outdoor Work were given over to making the feeders and we used three simple designs: a stringed apple pierced with sunflower seeds, a fat and seed mix in a cup and a suet block feeder.”
Staff from across the Bedales community, which comprises Bedales Pre prep, Dunannie, Bedales Prep, Dunhurst and Bedales itself, also got involved in making the birdfeeders in their free time. Established in 1893, Bedales was founded to be different and the idea of its founder, John Badley, was to educate the whole person – ‘head, hand and heart’. Ryan said “Understanding our relationship with the nature around us and nurturing wildlife is key to this”.
Many thanks to the staff at Bedales Prep School for this guest blog.
Photograph by David Tipling - rspb-images.com
There are some things in life that often go unquestioned. Quite often, these are ‘good’ things. Things that, to many of us, would just seem to be common sense.
The importance of children caring for nature, would, I suggest, be one of those very things.
Equally, as researchers, advocates and conservationists, we know the importance of being grounded in sound science and basing our positions and practices on a robust evidence base.
We also know that it is often those ‘good’ things that prove frustratingly tricky to study empirically.
David McHugh (rspb-images.com)
Last year, we were lucky enough to be able to commission the University of Derby to undertake a piece of research with the aim of demonstrating the link between how children feel about nature – their ‘connection to nature’ – and the positive impacts we suspected it is associated with.
I say lucky enough, as without the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation kindly funding the RSPB to research children’s connection to nature over the last five years, we would not have been able to undertake any of this work.
This project’s brief was to build on our earlier work to define children’s connection to nature and establish UK baselines for 8-12 year-olds. In part, it was also to reinforce what that study proposed as “a level of connection to nature that the RSPB considers to be a realistic and achievable target for all children.”
The new piece of research – launched today, here – was led by Dr Miles Richardson of the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group. Making the most of links with the University’s College of Education, Miles’ team were able to conduct fieldwork in 15 primary schools with nearly 800 pupils aged 10-11 years with a broad range of connection to nature.
The researchers also used a suite of subjective measures to see if and how they correlated with children’s connection to nature. These included health and wellbeing, participation in pro-nature behaviours (such as making a home for nature) and – for the very first time – educational attainment.
Summarising the report’s findings, Miles reveals:
“The results demonstrate that children who were more connected to nature had significantly higher English attainment. While there are a multitude of factors associated with a child’s English attainment, it is noteworthy that connection to nature is as important to children’s achievement in English as established factors such as life satisfaction and attendance at school.
“Further, the ‘target level’ of connection to nature previously proposed by the RSPB was found to be a significant threshold across other measures. Those children with at least this level of connection had significantly higher health, life satisfaction, pro-environmental behaviours and pro-nature behaviours.
“The analysis also found strong correlations between connection and pro-nature behaviours and pro-environmental behaviour. A positive correlation was also evident between children’s connection and days spent outdoors and days spent in nature over the past week, suggesting that the more time spent in nature is associated with a child’s connection to nature.
“The research provides further evidence that connecting with nature should be part of every child’s life – it has the potential to aid nature’s revival while benefiting the child. To embed nature connection within our social norms, there is a need to be able to understand the benefits and set targets for levels of nature connection.”
Commenting on the research, Andrew Barnett, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), adds:
“The results of this pioneering research confirm the benefits on health, wellbeing and even educational attainment of raising children, the future custodians of nature, with a sense of responsibility for and kinship towards the natural world. Robust evidence of children’s connection to nature will be a powerful lever for change.”
Reflecting on the research and its contribution to saving nature, Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, concludes:
“For nature’s sake and our own sake, we need to address the growing disconnection of people from nature. If people do not care about or have an interest in nature, they are not going to protect it. This new research has reinforced our previous finding that only one-in-five children in the UK are connected to nature, and for the first time demonstrated the important benefits associated with being connected. Thanks to it, we are a step closer to increasing people’s connection, a step closer to them helping to give nature a home, and a step closer to a world richer in nature for us all.”
For more information about our research in this area, visit rspb.org.uk/connectionmeasure
Looking for somewhere to take the children during half term? The RSPB has lots of fun, family activities to help you and your family discover and enjoy nature. Visit rspb.org.uk/events
The RSPB is also offering free, 90-minute wildlife sessions for pupils and teachers in school grounds in 15 major cities across Britain, funded by supermarket Aldi’s plastic bag levy. Find out more at rspb.org.uk/schoolsoutreach
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.