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A taste of the wild

Posted: Monday 13th July 2015 by TheWildlifeTrustsBlogger

(c) Christopher John Ball

‘A taste of the wild’ is exactly what it feels like when you visit London Wildlife Trust’s Camley Street Nature Park. Just a hop, skip and a jump from St Pancras Station, this inner city wilderness is a breath of fresh air in a commuter city.

 

June saw my first, I hope of many, visits to this special park to witness outdoor education in action. A local school group was visiting the Wildlife Trust to gain an insight into a nature reserve as part of one of their school projects.

When we arrived the children came piling in, excited for the trip and keen to tell Helen, a London Wildlife Trust staff member, all the things they had seen during their lunch walk around the park.

Before they’re let loose with volunteer wardens to explore, it’s time for some questions and games. Helen introduces the children to large habitat boards and asks the children to place animals in the habitats she thinks they belong, and explains why some animals need to live in different habitat types to meet all their needs. All the children are so enthusiastic about this and really make an effort to learn about the habitat types.

Time to go wild!
 

Then – it’s time to go outdoors! Our group first goes on a minibeast hunt. It’s great to see how engaged all the children are in this and the excitement when they find a minibeast is contagious. The most interesting find was definitely the woodlouse eating spider – and the girl who made the find was so proud to show it off for a picture. They’re taught about all the creatures they’ve found, why they live in those places and why they’re important for the ecosystem. After all the minibeasts are safely put back where they were found, the children are off for a walk of the park to collect items for their memory stick.

The memory stick is a sticky piece of cardboard on to which the children can stick any ‘wildlife’ items they find on the floor. This is a great way for the visit to leave a lasting impact on the kids. Leaves, soil, feathers, discarded petals – all of these things find their way on to the stick!

As well as collecting items, we were all shown nesting boxes, interesting fungus and all the amazing things that make up this park – nest boxes, bee hives, log piles, the list is endless. We were so lucky to find a lesser stag beetle sheltering under in a log pile. The children (and myself and my colleague!!) excitedly gathered around to see this incredible beetle. What a find!

At the end of the day it was time for the children to compare their memory sticks and repeat the things they learnt at the start of the trip from Helen: the four things an animal needs, food, a home, water and air. For all of these children, this was their first trip to Camley Nature Park and it seemed to instil in all of them that nature is fun!

The importance of outdoor learning
 

London Wildlife Trust isn’t alone – lots of Trusts work within schools and have dedicated schools programmes to help get children in touch with wildlife. Our kids section on our website has links to lots of our children’s events, as well as other ideas and activities to get children more ‘wild’.

Now more than ever research is emerging about the importance of children getting outside. This article from the Independent talks about research proving that green spaces improve children’s cognitive abilities and there are a growing number of organisations promoting the teaching of children outdoors. So if you work in a school why not organise an outdoor session, or if you’re a parent, have a look at the amazing resources we have produced to help you have a brilliant family day out.

I’ll close this post with a quote from one of the children. At the start of the session, Helen asked the children who knew what a nature reserve was. The most poignant answer from one child was “a special place where there is still trees and animals, and people who look after them”. I think she hit the nail on the head with ‘a special place’.

Leanne Manchester
Communications Support Officer


 

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