Monday, 30 April 2012

Living Landscapes - Lights, camera, action !

chew valley lakeThis week pupils from Bishop Sutton Primary School will begin creating a film about their local landscape and the people that work within it and shape its future. 

Filming will be taking place at Folly Farm and The Community Farm this Tuesday where they will be talking to Andy (a community farm grower), Alex (a charcoal maker) and Jo (Folly Farm).

The project is led by the Wildschools team from  Avon Wildlife Trust and is funded by Mendip Hills AONB

The story so far . . .
Our film-makers have already explored Folly Farm and The Community Farm and learnt about the terminology and key features of the landscape such as habitats, wildlife corridors, pollination, organic farming, succession and natural boundaries.

The Community Farm is an organic,
not-for-profit growing community that helps its members to farm in a sustainable way. It also aims to reconnect people with where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it making it an ideal location for our film crews to do some research.

Now armed with an understanding of the landscape they are ready to meet the locals!

Filming rolls into action . . .
To do this they will be hosting a tea party and inviting along some of the local people that live and work in the area. Some future interviewees lined up include a phd student studying cowslips, local fishermen, farmers and local residents. Each with a different view and experience of the landscape which our pupils will use to build a picture of how the landscape was used in the past, now and how that might change in the future.

Our Yr 4 and 5 pupils from Bishop Sutton Primary have been taking the filming process very seriously and have assigned specific roles within the groups such as director, producer, scriptwriter, narrator/presenter, sound person, photographer and (last but not least) camera operators.

The children have really taken ownership of their films and devised their own questions to put to the interviewees. They intend to find out what makes this landscape tick and will be investigating the story of this landscape and how important it is to us and wildlife.

Still to come . . .
Don't miss our film-makers visit a working farm/nature reserve to get an insight into the future of farming!
Our young film crews will be visiting Burledge Hill which is an Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserve and working farm with part of it designated as an SSSI. This is a special site that is managed sympathetically towards wildlife and conservation in such a way that supports being a business too. By encouraging a variety of species and rich grasslands they in turn can feed their cattle with a highly nutritious diet that improves the quality of their stock.

More updates on the making of this film to follow!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Signs of Spring...a visit to Badocks Wood

Tree in blossom

Spring has sprung! At last we begin to see some new life  and sunshine after those cold, dark winter months!

 We took classes from Badocks Wood Primary School and Little Meads Primary School to nearby Badocks Wood to spot the signs of spring.

Wild garlic
It is all part of a project that links schools up with their local nature reserves. The children get to understand how these places change during the year, our last visit to the wood was in the Autumn. Read our autumn blog entry here!

One of the fist signs of Spring we saw was the beautiful sight of blossom on the trees! We asked the children to think of words to describe this... 'spectacular' was our favourite!

Building a nest

 Another sign was wild garlic. The bright green leaves of these plants have a distinctive garlic smell! We saw flowers  growing in the ground, lots of daffodils and green buds growing on the trees!
We were all looking for signs of Spring, but then we stopped walking, closed our eyes and listened!

We could hear so many different noises, mostly birds! Birds are particularly noisy during Spring as they use their bird song to attract a mate. So we tried singing  some different bird songs!
A great activity was testing how good the children would be as birds, singing their particular bird song and trying to find other birds of the same species.  You can listen below to both the natural bird songs in Badocks Wood and the children singing their own version!!

The bird songs of Badocks Wood by Avon Wildlife Trust
 In groups they made birds nests together, thinking carefully about  making it comfotable, safe, waterproof and where to place the completed nest.

Badocks Wood is a great outdoor learning resource for these schools that is only a short walk away!
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Living Landscapes... exploring the Chew Valley with Bishop Sutton Primary School

Walking through a ploughed field
 Our 'Living Landscapes' project involves working with Bishop Sutton Primary School. The project aims to get the school thinking about how humans influence the environment and use the local landscape. 

A semi improved field

 The school is located in a beautiful part of the Chew Valley with great wildlife right on their doorstep! So last month we explored the local landscape and walked  from the school to Folly Farm.

The journey took us through a range of environments, such as Burledge Hill, a protected  Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), through 'improved' and 'semi improved' grass fields, orchards, ancient walkways,  alongside waterways, dried ponds and even a ravine!


Pond dipping

 We also explored micro habitats and saw birds eggs in a nest tucked away in a wall and learnt about the importance of layed hedges to wildlife. After a few miles we arrived at our destination: Folly Farm and took a walk, some of us ran, though the fields past the 'owl corridors'. We had time to do some pond dipping too!

Our next visit to the school involved a trip to the brilliant Community Farm in Chew Magna.

Lots to learn from Head grower Andy
Growing onions

Head Grower Andy taught us about organic farming and how it compares to conventional farming,  the importance of soil and wildlife on the farm. The children also got a chance to put their green fingers to work and planted onions and spinach.
Visit the Community Farm website and see some photos of the day click here

Got a taste for growing some veg? Visit our  WILD SCHOOLS website for free resources on how to grow and conserve an edible garden click here 
Growing spinach
More updates to follow about our Living Landscapes project on our blog!
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Folly Farm Sustainability Day

We were visited by pupils from Holymead Primary School for a 'Sustainability Day' at Folly Farm.
The mystery bags of soil components
What does sustainability mean? We asked this question at the start of the day... by the end of the day we all had a better understanding of 'sustainability' and how we can all help to live more sustainably! Here is an insight into some of the activities:

Rotters Restuarant
Creating menus for Rotters Restaurant!
It takes about 1000 years for an inch of soil to form. Each pupil took it in turn to bravely put their hands in mysterious bags to try and guess the components of soil.  It is so important ... think about it... what would we eat if there was no soil!!! Everything depends on soil: vegetables, fruit trees, rice, wheat, farm animals, even fish!
We took a trip to ROTTERS RESTAURANT  for the 'best grub in town!' Here we asked the class to create menus for a selection of diners such as beetles, bugs, worms and spiders .
Have a listen to some of the menus:

Rotters Restaurant Specials by Avon Wildlife Trust

We learnt that the woodland floor is an abundant 'restuarant' that a wide variety of organisms rely on... although most who dine here may end up on the menu too!

Nature detectives

Exploring the Orchard Ecosystem
We have orchards at Folly Farm, which are home to a variety of wildlife. Picture cards of some of this wildlife were hanging  in the trees: honey bee, hedgehog, horseshoe bat, flycatcher, tree blossom - to name a few!
The class had to become nature detectives to find all of the pictures and match them up to appropriate descriptions about the behaviour, habitat, diet and important roles of the species in the orchard.

Exploring in the orchard

Then things got a bit muddier as we searched for mini beasts in the orchard. Spiders, worms, beetles, earwigs and woodlice were all found. So many organisms use the orchards, rely upon each other,  and each have important roles in supporting the habitat. A great example of the balance of nature!

Mini beast hunt
To rot... or not to rot...
Something that you may not think about is what happens to our rubbish when we throw it away? Well, we know it gets taken to landfill- but then what?! How quickly does 'stuff' decompose? The children tried to work this out! We had a pile of rubbish containing flip  flops, cans, paper, glass, plastics and food waste. The class had to try and put into chronological order how long it takes for this rubbish to decompose.  We were all very shocked at how long our rubbish takes to break down once it is in landfill, for example,  1,000,000 years for glass to decompose ... around 80 years for an aluminium can... the problem of plastics that are not biodegradable and end up polluting oceans and harming wildlife!
This activity really hits home the importance of the motto 'reduce, reuse, recycle'! Reducing how much waste we produce in the first place, reusing what we can and recycling what we cannot!

Take a look at our Folly Farm Learning Brochure to see what your class could discover during a day class or residential trip!
Click here for more info about learning programmes at Folly Farm.
You can always get in touch for more information. P lease contact: Julie or Jo:  0117 917 7270 or email

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Rabbits... camera... ACTION! Wildlife Film making at Folly Farm

We had a great week with a group of year 5 and 6 pupils from a Wembley school, who visited Folly Farm on a residential trip.
The group completed a range of activities including learning about contrasting habitats, bush craft skills, evening owl and badger watching and setting mammal traps; however, the standout activity of the week was the wildlife film making day.
The group had one day to script, shoot and edit a wildlife film. The groups quickly organised themselves into documentary teams, assigning a director, producer, sound person, camera person and narrator. Each team chose a theme such as 'wildlife at Folly Farm' or 'food chains'  to  create a short documentary.

We luckily had a gorgeous sunny Spring day, which showed off the amazing wildlife at Folly Farm. The teams did a great job! We may have witnessed wildlife presenters in the making!
Don't take our word for it- have a look yourself!!

If you would like to book a residential trip for a fun-filled wildlife residential trip to Folly Farm then take a look at our learning brochure
If you would like to experience a wildlife film making course or would like more information  then please contact us!
Julie or Jo:  0117 917 7270 or email:
For more info about learning programmes at Folly Farm click here
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