Sunday, 30 November 2014

Rewilding Roseberry Academy

In true Wild Intrigue style, this week began with the rewilding of a group of young school children. I had arranged to visit Roseberry Academy, Great Ayton, and couldn’t wait to get into the school’s wildlife garden. Stepping into the classroom, echoing quick ‘good morning’s!’ to each other, curious eyes stared back at me eagerly; so with anticipation buzzing, we all bundled into the cloakroom and threw on our wellies, raincoats, gloves and hats. 

Before heading out into the wilds, I read out two statements which I wanted the children to answer; the questions (in bold) and answers (in italics) are below:

I think wild birds are:
Lovely                  Nice                    Awesome                     Weird
Crazy                  Cool                    Mad                             Funny
I think invertebrates are:
Creepy                 Strange               OK                              Ugly
Strange                Scary                  Beautiful                     Terrifying
Slim                     Alright                 So Creepy                   Crazy

I now had an idea of how birds and invertebrates were viewed by this group of 30 children. As the children shouted out their thoughts, I wondered whether my rewilding session could help alter their perceptions of these often misunderstood species. Could Wild Intrigue play a part in contributing to the wildlife vocabulary of this year 5 Literacy group? Well, I would only know when the rewilding session came to a close, so I exclaimed…

“Right then wild ones, I need volunteers to carry to carry treats up to the Wild Bird Take Out…!” Hands shot into the air and a huge jug of water, mountain of sunflower seeds, mixed seeds and halved apples were shared out across eager, grabbing hands. We ventured across the school field towards the wilds of the wildlife garden, chatting about the wildlife we had all been lucky enough to encounter near our homes since we last met.

This was the first time this particular group had spent time in their new wildlife garden, so I was curious how each child would carve out this wild space to make it into their own Nature Den. We reached the Willow Arch leading into the wildlife garden, and entered through into this wildlife haven, previously unexplored by these young wild ones.

First stop was the Wild Bird Take Out, a pit stop for resident and commuting birds to feed up and grab a quick bath before heading on with their business. The stagnant water in the bird bath was emptied and refilled with the huge jug of water, which had been so carefully carried across the school field (with only a couple of spills!). The mixed bird seed and sunflower seeds were emptied into a big bucket, which was then offered to each child to grab and handful and add to the feeding stations. Lots of giggling broke out as the bird seed slipped between fingers, and the children realised that cupping their hands was the best method of tackling this tricky new substance.

Filling up the Wild Bird Take Out ready for hungry feathered customers

Once all the new feeders were full to the brim with seed, and the children had scattered their halved apples throughout the wildlife garden, I brought out a mix of feathers collected over the year; Pheasant, Tawny Owl and Feral Pigeon were the most admired. The colours and impressive length of the Pheasant tail feather, the beautifully soft texture of the Tawny, and the shimmering, iridescent green of the Feral Pigeon were all examined as the feathers circulated the group. 

After a group discussion on ‘behind the scenes of birds’, the children spent the rest of the session exploring the garden as they pleased, finding their own moments of wild intrigue. Some chose to explore their new Nature Den with their friendship groups, whilst others found new clans according to their particular wildlife interests, and a select few chose to temporarily break away from their peers to embark upon a sole expedition of their new Den. I was happily pulled between the explorers, identifying wriggling critters, explaining the importance of the new bird boxes, identifying places to plant wildflowers… 

Watching a curious Robin and sitting on a Toadstool... Not your average Monday at school!

Before we knew it, our 45 minute rewilding session had come to an end, and the next group was eagerly waiting to explore the garden. Before leaving the wildlife garden I asked the children to finish the same sentences from the beginning of the session:

I think wild birds are:
Cute                       Fast                     Soft                               Extraordinary
Colourful               Funky                  Flabbergasting             Crazy

Silky                      Lovely                 Interesting                     Important

I think invertebrates are:
Fascinating           Small                    Sneaky                         Ugly
Everywhere           Creepy                 Slimy                            Cool
Macro                   Amazing               Intriguing                    Flexible   

 Success! Although it will take a few more sessions to drive away the commonly innate fear these children have of bugs, the children have developed a greater understanding of invertebrates and wild birds, and it appears that 45 minutes in Nature has allowed the creativity of the group to flourish, enabling this literacy class to reflect upon their individual experiences and express their opinions with elaborate words.

The importance and value of the wildlife garden to these young minds, and to the school, will continue to prove itself. This single session alone is proof of the value that the natural world has upon the educational, personal and spiritual development of children; and is a testimony to why wild places on and surrounding school grounds must be restored, enhanced and made accessible to future generations who will so passionately protect them.   

School Wildlife Garden Warriors

- Heather-Louise

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