Pupils from 17 schools across Aberdeen City and Shire are closer to nature thanks to an exciting partnership between the RSPB and Aldi and even more schools and nurseries are being encouraged to get involved in 2017.
The partnership sees RSPB-trained educators going into schools and nurseries and working with teachers and pupils in their school grounds to deliver a series of fun and engaging outreach sessions linked to the curriculum for excellence.
In Aberdeen, these outreach sessions began in earnest in August 2016. Since then 32 successful sessions, delivered by RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers, have seen more than 1000 children become better connected with nature. This includes 132 pupils from five classes at Skene Square School.
The first visit to Skene Square School was in September 2016, where a group of P6 pupils became nature detectives for the day, discovering and identifying a variety of animals and plants during a bioblitz of their school grounds. RSPB Scotland returned later that month to visit the P7s who spent the morning mapping out their school grounds and identifying different existing habitats and spotting opportunities to create more homes for nature.
One of the teachers from Skene Square School said: "It was fantastic that the children had the chance to explore their surroundings and realise that nature still lives here even though the playground is mostly concrete. Her pupil Izzy (aged 11) added: "It was really fun, we got to look around the school and then tell the teacher what would make it better for wildlife".
Then in November, in preparation for January's Big Schools Birdwatch, two P2 classes spent a session learning to identify and name a variety of common birds and to recognise the type of safe environment and habitat that may attract more birds to their grounds.
Miss Findlay (Deputy Head Teacher, Skene Square) said: "All of the age groups enjoyed the activities they participated in. They brought the playground alive and made the children enthusiastic to continue to improve the area for wildlife". In fact, the school have enjoyed these sessions so much that they have already booked more sessions in 2017.
Thalia Lyness is RSPB Scotland's Schools Outreach Project Officer based in Aberdeen and runs the sessions along with a team of volunteers. She said: "I'm hugely excited by how popular these sessions have been with city and shire schools in just the first six months of the project. It was great to see how surprised and excited both pupils and teachers at Skene Square have been to find that there is wildlife living in their school grounds, even though it is mainly concrete, and how creative they've been mapping opportunities to increase the homes for nature around their school."
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. The partnership between Aldi and the RSPB aims to create homes for nature in school grounds and local green spaces that will help turn the fortunes of UK wildlife around.
Thalia added: "We are thrilled to be able to offer our free outreach sessions in Aberdeen City and Shire. It's exciting to help schools create homes for nature within their school grounds and a privilege to inspire youngsters about all the amazing wildlife they can find on their doorstep, even within the city. I would encourage every school to take advantage of this opportunity."
Currently, schools can choose from three free activities, all linked to the curriculum for excellence.
· 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.
The free outreach sessions are now available in 17 cities across the UK thanks to the partnership between Aldi and RSPB. The three-year partnership will see Aldi donate profits from its carrier bag sales to the RSPB. Money raised will allow the RSPB and Aldi to work together to deliver connection to nature experiences to more than half-a-million children. It will also help improve children's health and well-being while inspiring them to love and understand the natural world. [note 1]
Jonathan Neale, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: "It was an honour to partner with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations. We recognise the great work the RSPB do and the important role they play in protecting our wildlife. It is our intention that our partnership and the initiatives we are working on, such as Giving Nature a Home, will leave a long-lasting benefit for generations to come."
To book a free 90-minute session at their school, teachers should visit rspb.org.uk/schoolsoutreach
For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Scotland Communications Manager, on 01224 627869 or 07711 355595
A selection of photos are available to download by Clicking here and using the login details below.
They should be credited to the photographer and rspb-images.com and use only in relation to this story.
1. From July 2015, the proceeds Aldi makes from its carrier bags will go to helping the RSPB deliver connection to nature experiences to more than half a million children. From January 2016, the same offer will apply to Scotland. Profits from carrier bag sales in England and Wales are expected to see the RSPB receive donations in excess of £2m.
Although at the RSPB we like to encourage people to re-use carrier bags, the fact is that many people do opt for disposable bags. This scheme means that we'll receive more than £2 million over three years from the specially-designed bags, which will cost 5p each. We'll use this money to connect more than half a million children to nature.
2. The RSPB is 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.