The best way to teach children about the wildlife in their own locality is to immerse them in that habitat and to involve them in a practical project that helps them learn about species and what they can do to protect and provide habitats for them. Over the last two weeks, a series of children have been learning about the habitat needed for hedgehogs and how we can support them at school. We have not yet seen a hedgehog here, but we think they are very likely to be around. We have created lots of log piles and insect habitats that will support the food that hedgehogs need. We also have a shallow pond with slowing sides that will allow them to drink safely. We needed to create some other habitats for them and , with winter just about upon us, we decided to create some hibernation homes. These would provide a shelter for hedgehogs and any other small mammals who might like somewhere warm and dry. Invertebrates may also like to live in here. Through building these homes, the pupils learnt about hedgehogs and their place in our school habitat and were able to do something practical to support them.
Working in teams, the pupils collected lots of sticks and twigs. Using string and a few cable ties, they had the challenge of creating a small structure using these materials. This would be the skeleton of our hibernation home.
Once the team had created the structure, they collected grass to pack all the spaces and create a roof over the top surfaces. Once complete, the large numbers of dry leaves were scooped all over the structure and packed down. This created a lovely, insulated space, very similar to a natural hibernation home.
Using some model hedgehogs the children, most of whom have never seen a hedgehog, we checked the entrance was big enough for them to squeeze in. There was lots of talk about how cosy it would be inside and what it must be like to hibernate. The groups had a chance to have a look at each other’s hibernation homes and think about which they would choose if they were a hedgehog.
The finished homes were just amazing and the children were all very proud of them. They had undertaken a fun, group-based challenge and, through its construction, had learnt about a British mammal and what they can do to protect it. Practical conservation at this age is essential for engagement and a feeling that they can make a difference through their actions.
By being actively involved in building these wonderful wildlife homes, these pupils are much more likely to retain the information they have learnt. The practical nature of the task leads to a greater understanding and hopefully initiates an interest in wildlife and a love of being outdoors. Such an easy project to do, it cost virtually nothing (other than some string and cable ties) and imparted lots of information, discussion and team work. What better way to learn?