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Education and the Deescover project
By Helen Walker, Education Officer
As part of NatureSpy’s DeeScover project and as Education Officer for NatureSpy, I have been fortunate enough to select 10 lucky schools that lie within or on the fringes of this stunning area to benefit from a visit from myself to tell them all about the DeeScover project and the wildlife on their doorstep.
After careful consideration (and intense studying of maps!) 3 schools were selected from Flintshire, 3 from Denbighshire and 4 from Wrexham as all of these counties enter into the AONB. Once contacted they were all really keen to be part of this exciting project looking for the wilder species that live amongst them and their schools!
During the initial first visit the children are introduced to the Deescover project where they learn about camera traps, species we are looking for and they also take part in some wildlife detective activities; for example matching animal tracks to the animals that made them. As part of the wildlife workshop the children also have the opportunity to set up a camera trap in a suitable place within their school grounds.
This activity allows them to put classroom theory into practice outside by hunting for clues and evidence of wildlife whether it be fur, feathers, footprints or more excitingly, poo! After finding a suitable place for their camera it is then left in place for 3 weeks until I return to collect it and we look through the footage.
So, the second visit is very exciting for me and the children as we get to see what has visited their school over the 3 week period. The children are usually very excitable and can’t wait to see the results – even if it is just the local cat that has paid them a night time visit! At the end of the second visit the children are encouraged to think sustainably about what they can do to help look after wildlife at home or school or whilst they are out and about within the AONB. They then make a wildlife pledge to say what they are going to do, whether it is to feed the birds more regularly, collect litter or even building homes for hedgehogs.
The education side of the Deescover project is all about getting children to connect with nature from an early age. The younger they are, and the more they engage with wildlife and learn what lives amongst them, the more likely they are to care about what happens to it in the future. The activities within the workshop have been tailored to follow national curriculum guidelines including ‘learning about living things and the environment and how they need protection’. But most importantly, the education side of the DeeScover project is about children having fun, enjoying learning and ‘deescovering’ what lives on their doorsteps by getting outside and hearing and feeling nature.
Spending time outdoors and interacting with the elements gives their senses a host of new sensations that cannot be recreated indoors. For anyone to care about nature they need to feel it through their senses and this process begins naturally in childhood and lays critical foundations for a healthy developing brain. If children interact with nature in a considerate and respectful manner this fosters long term personal and planetary well-being and the children are more likely to think about the environment in a sustainable way. The Deescover project offers children the chance to get outside, breathe fresh air and engage with nature and I can’t wait to see the results!
Next time…. ‘The Visits so far….’