Pupils from Kinross High School will complete an astounding 50 activities to help nature today (Monday 8 May). The teenagers are taking part in the '50 Challenge' at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven nature reserve, near Kinross, as part of the popular visitor attraction's 50th anniversary celebrations.
The challenge to complete 50 wildlife and nature-themed activities in just one day was set by RSPB Scotland Learning Officer, Craig Leitch. He said: "An important part of the 50th anniversary celebrations is highlighting all the work we do with young people and schools, after all Loch Leven was the RSPB's first ever outdoor education centre when we opened in 1967. There are now education centres across the UK, and here at Loch Leven we still welcome thousands of schoolchildren each year along with all the families that visit us. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate 50 years of bringing children and families closer to nature and what better way than by completing all of our favourite activities and more in one day."
The 50 activities are hugely varied, from ones that give nature a home like making a minibeast mansion or a pollinator hanging ball, to natural art like twig towers, to spotting wildlife like the reserve's infamous red squirrels, to learning survival skills like fire lighting, to more contemplative or imaginative activities such as tree climbing and making magic wands. All this, plus a mid-morning break for some well-deserved cake, seems like a perfect way to celebrate the reserve's outdoor learning legacy.
Every year, around 2,500 children from schools across the central belt visit RSPB Scotland Loch Leven as part of the schools on reserve offer which aims to put nature back in to every child's life. The curriculum-linked programmes allow children to get hands-on experiences of the natural world, whilst learning about adaptations, food chains and habitats.
The pupils from Kinross High School will be documenting their 50 challenge activity experiences and the photos will form part of a 50th anniversary exhibition being held at the nature reserve in October. Their records of the day will appear alongside stories and memories from the last 50 year's of RSPB Scotland Loch Leven that the reserve will start gathering later this month.
As well as the anniversary exhibition in October, there will be a VIP event for invited guests who have contributed to the reserve over the last 50 years and a celebration event on 29 October where visitors of all ages can get involved with nature-themed activities.
In the lead-up to the anniversary there will be other celebrations too, including a limited edition golden pink-footed goose pin badge which is available now from the reserve's shop and a special exhibition throughout June of paintings and sketches by the Kinross and District Art Club who are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
Over the last 50 years, RSPB Scotland Loch Leven has experienced many changes. When RSPB Scotland first bought the land in 1967, the area, known then as Vane Farm, was a working farm, with arable fields running towards the loch edge and grazing up on the hill.
Since then, the original farm steading has been developed to provide facilities for more than 55,000 visitors a year including a shop and an award-winning cafe with spectacular views over Loch Leven. A host of family activities throughout the year expands the reserve's original purpose as a centre for outdoor education and the current school's programmes continue to make the most of both the woodland and wetland habitats.
Out on the reserve the wetland has seen dramatic changes. Areas of trees and scrub have been removed to help recreate wet grassland, while ditches and pools have been dug, and some filled in, to help with water management throughout the reserve. The wetland provides homes for internationally important numbers of breeding and wintering waders, ducks and geese and the reserve's three bird hides and screens help visitors get up close and enjoy the wildlife.
For anyone wishing to try some of the 50 Challenge activities, there is a Family Fun day on 13 and 14 May, from 10 am until 4 pm. For more information about the 50th anniversary events or visiting the reserve go to rspb.org.uk/lochleven.
1. The RSPB believes that connecting with nature should be part of every child's life and their schools on reserve offer is part of an overall strategy to put nature back into childhood, through working with schools, families, youth organisations and partners. RSPB Scotland's schools on reserve offer is supported through funding from Aldi and SNH.
2. RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.