Thursday, 6 December 2012

Where the Wild Things are..

This week the Guardian posted an article about the value of children having outdoor experiences, how it can build their confidence and transform their relationships with their teachers. In my role as Learning Development Officer at Avon Wildlife Trust, I see this first hand time and time again. It is one of the truly rewarding aspects of my job.

Meeting restless children in a classroom and taking them into a natural environment, encouraging them to make decisions, be creative, explore, investigate, see, feel and hear the world around them has so much impact. To see them experience their senses fully, to independently discover an beetle in a piece of rotting wood like it's a piece of golden treasure, to hear their cries of wonder when they make the connection with the ugly predator they found in the pond with it's adult form of a beautiful dragonfly. The list is endless. No doubt we were all fascinated by the natural world once, when we were young... when we had time to look around us and discover new things...

On Tuesday I visited Ilminster Avenue E-ACT primary school in Knowle West and took the year 5's up to Callington Road nature reserve. This was their second visit with me to their local nature reserve as part of the Wild City project run by Bristol City Council. Each season we are visiting this urban nature reserve to look at the changes throughout the year, explore the woodlands, grasslands and pond, discover the native wildlife and to do some learning outside of the classroom. This week students learnt about winter wildlife and discovered the woodland habitat, creating their own, imaginary creatures.

Yes, it was cold (we wore coats), yes there were hazards (I did a site visit and wrote a full risk assessment in advance), yes, it was noisy at times (they were engaged in their learning) and yes, we had to travel to get there (we walked - it was free). The outcome of overcoming these the potential barriers was that the students not only learnt about habitats, adaptations and their local environment but they also worked creatively together, they assessed risk for themselves, they engaged with their local neighbourhood in a positive way, gained confidence (at times they were blindfolded and led by their partners), developed their knowledge and skills and formed deep learning experiences. I'm already looking forward to my Spring visit with these pupils, they are bright, enthusiastic, capable and,hopefully, with a little more encouragement, becoming, as one child put it 'Nature Nerds'. Fantastic!

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