At the time of writing 6 schools within the AONB have had their first visit and 4 have had their second (which includes collection of the cameras and a look through the footage). I can honestly say that it has been such an enjoyable experience so far meeting some great kids who, potentially, are our wildlife enthusiasts of the future. There have been some highs and lows and I’m not just talking about the weather pressure systems!
School 1 – Unfortunately it started with a low at this school due to a fault with the camera which means that they are going to have to be revisited. However, it was a gorgeous little school with a very enthusiastic junior class. They had a great wildlife area and there was lots of evidence of wildlife visiting – one pupil even found some black and white hairs caught at the bottom of the fence… badger maybe?
School 2 – This visit saw me visiting an early years class seated eagerly on the school carpet (which took me back to my own school days). After the classroom based workshop we ventured outside and were spoilt for choice as to where to leave the camera. They had a forest school area, bird hide, orchard and an open field! We eventually decided upon the forest school area and set up the camera in a hail storm! Not one child complained about the weather or being outside which says a lot about a child’s resilience. Just as I was about to leave it was break time and I heard two young girls say “Shall we play NatureSpy?” which was so lovely. Upon my return visit one little girl had made her own camera trap from a cardboard box which was very impressive.
Unfortunately, due to the time of year that the camera was set up (December) and how secure the forest school area was, there was little wildlife to report visiting except for a great shot of 5 Goldfinches all feeding in the same place.
School 3 – Another beautiful school in a fantastic location and the workshop involved the whole school this time. The camera was placed perfectly overlooking the school field towards the Clwydian Range.
Again, the children were very excited upon my return –as was I! I always look through the footage before showing any images to the children just in case there is anything untoward. The first 5 videos were good with the usual suspects of blackbirds, grey squirrels and then…….. a species I did not recognise. Quite a large mammal that was very interested in the camera and actually got so up close and personal that it moved its position. After a bit of identification detective work this mammal was revealed as…….. the lesser known CARETAKER!! Unfortunately, no-one had told him about the camera on the school grounds which was now pointing up to the sky so it was only able to capture the tips of the ears of a visiting fox. The children were a little disappointed but managed to see the funny side. They were consoled with looking at footage taken from previous schools.
School 4 – This has been the best school so far in terms of what turned up for the camera. The camera was triggered over 300 times which meant that I had quite a bit of footage to go through before showing it to the children. During the workshop the children were really engrossed in the activities, especially the outdoor section. One girl highlighted the perfect position for the camera – opposite a hole in the bottom of a fence leading into a field within their forest school area. They were brilliant ‘NatureSpies’ There were regular wildlife visitors every night including a cat with a huge mouse in its mouth, a badger digging for worms and two foxes screaming and chasing each other!
School 5 – This school had the biggest school grounds so far and the workshop took place on the coldest day (-1c) but once again, the children showed how resilient they are and got stuck into the outdoor activities with no complaints. When I first arrived at their classroom I was heartened to see the ‘NatureSpy’ website displayed on the board and the children were already engaged in wildlife identification activities so I knew that they were going to be a good group. Again, we were spoilt for choice as to where to position the camera but we opted for a slightly overgrown area in front of their bird hide.
School 6 – From the biggest school to the smallest school this time with only 18 pupils in total ranging from aged 4 – 11 and the smallest school grounds. Pitching the indoor workshop at the right level was a little trickier due to the age range of the pupils but we managed and once we went outside for the outdoor workshop there were no issues. All pupils were involved and even though there were no substantial trees to attach the camera to we ended up placing it on a fence post. Again, fingers crossed for the collection…
I have been so impressed so far by the children, their teachers and the school environment even if the wildlife hasn’t always come out to play. And although we haven’t yet discovered any of the wilder species of the AONB that we are looking for as part of this DeeScover project, there is still time, especially now spring is here and everything is waking up. 4 more schools to visit and 6 more cameras to collect!
Next time… ‘The remaining schools and wildlife highlights’…