RSPB conscripts teachers for 'green army'

Ham Wall RSPB has boardwalks overlooking the reserve to enable visitors to get closer to nature. Photo: Sharon Loxton (commons.wikimedia.org).
Ham Wall RSPB has boardwalks overlooking the reserve to enable visitors to get closer to nature. Photo: Sharon Loxton (commons.wikimedia.org).
The RSPB and Natural England have called for teachers in Somerset to join the RSPB's Green Army, and help local schools reconnect pupils with nature.

The RSPB Schools on Reserves project offers a broad range of hands-on activity programmes aimed to encourage children aged between pre-school and A-level years, to develop an understanding of the natural world. By fostering a relationship between children and nature, the wildlife charity says these future guardians of our natural world are more likely to care for the environment when they are adults.

The charity's spokesperson, Morwenna Alldis, said: “Recent studies have shown that a shocking four out of five children do not have a connection to nature. The RSPB, alongside researchers from the University of Essex, defined a child’s meaningful connection to nature as: ‘an enjoyment of nature; having empathy for creatures; having a sense of oneness with nature; and having a sense of responsibility for the environment’. In an age where nature is at crisis point, the prospect of our future generations having no relationship with the natural world, is extremely worrying and doesn’t bode well for nature’s survival.

“The RSPB in Somerset have partnered with Natural England to instigate a call to arms for teachers to change this trend. The RSPB Schools on Reserves project offers a programme of half-day experiences at Ham Wall RSPB and Shapwick Heath (managed by Natural England) giving schools the opportunity to reconnect their pupils with the natural world. Schools can even book two half-day programmes and enjoy a full day-trip with the option of a self-guided session too. Programmes run from 10 am-12 noon and 12.30 pm-2.30 pm.”
Mary Scott, RSPB Learning Officer at the Avalon Marshes Centre, said: “The aim of the Schools on Reserves project is to reconnect children to nature. We enable students to explore the natural world with exciting, hands-on activities, which provide unique and memorable learning experiences.

“The Avalon Marshes provide an exciting variety of opportunities to get up-close-and-personal with the wetland wildlife of these nature reserves. Our boardwalks, hides and platforms are steeped in history, archaeology and wildlife, which will appeal to students of all ages. From pre-school to A-level, we support a whole range of subjects linked to the science National Curriculum. We even have classrooms available at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

“New facilities are being developed at Ham Wall all of the time: the new much larger car park, Tor View hide set in the middle of the lakes; mini-marshes discovery zone with the Giving Nature a Home trail. Permanent toilets & a reception building will arrive soon. A new tower hide is being built north of the river opening up access to a new part of the reserve. And our partners at Natural England are working to develop the enormous educational potential of Shapwick Heath. This summer the new Discovery Trail was completed opening up an accessible loop through the reed beds suitable for all ages. Development of woodland habitats extends what we can offer to Key Stage 2 & 3 groups. A-level groups benefited from the wonderfully diverse meadows along the Sweet Track to bring biology fieldwork to life.”

RSPB Schools on Reserves Programmes include:

•         Plants and Animals for year 2
•         Habitats – Food Chains for year 4
•         Habitat Investigations for years 5 & 6
•         Ecological Investigations for Key Stage 3 and 4
•         Terrestrial Fieldwork for A level Biology.

Programmes can be combined to make a full day visit.

Claire Stevens, a teacher from Brookside Community Primary School in Somerset said: “The children all had a fantastic day and were thoroughly enthusiastic about finding mini-beasts and pond creatures.” And one pupil commented: “I enjoyed going to the Avalon Marshes, I liked seeing all the pond insects. I was very excited and I found out lots and I loved the Slow Worms.”

A half day visit costs from £3.50 per child at Primary level. For more information on the Schools on Reserves Programmes offered, please visit: www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/teachers/schoolvisits/avalon_marshes.aspx.
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