As most of you will know, I am a primary school teacher and I have a 2 day a week contract in Michael Drayton Junior School… a large school in North Warwickshire. There I have the enviable job of developing and promoting natural history and a love of the natural world in all the young minds there! I have only been in post for a year and a half and there is SO much I would love to do, but simply do not have time to do. We have developed an area for wildlife and also have hens and rabbits in school now. I feel that caring for animals and having that direct contact is a good starter for understanding how we can care for wildlife outside of our homes.
I was delighted in our recent Ofsted Report to see that they had acknowledged the work we have put in to this part of our children’s education… ‘The new wildlife area is of excellent quality and adds greatly to pupils’ enjoyment of school’. You can read more about wildlife work atwww.mdjs-wildlearning.co.uk
In addition to working at Michael Drayton, I also work in other local schools. I offer a range of services and can offer advice and help with developing school grounds and keeping animals to learning about and getting involved in local wildlife. I also run workshops on all sorts of things, from dissecting owl pellets, wildlife art to creative writing! There are a number of local schools that use me quite regularly and one of these is a small infants school in Coleshill. As I work in a Junior School, it is great to be able to work with younger children as well and I always enjoy my visits.
Last week, I spent a day working, with Yr 2 pupils on their pond and insect garden. It was looking rather sad, with very little planting, other than a few buddleias. The children and I planted up a range of nectar-rich plants and generally made the area a lot more wildlife friendly. Last year, I had spent a day in their pond in waders, clearing it all out and trying to improve its potential as a wildlife pond. Unfortunately, someone had ‘kindly’ donated goldfish at some point and despite my best efforts, I was unable to catch them all to move them somewhere else. Goldfish will eat a lot of the invertebrates and tadpoles etc in a pond and I do not recommend have fish in your school wildlife pond.
This week, I returned again, to spend some time with Yr 1, this time to work outside in a lovely, rather overgrown grass and wooded area owned by the school. The forecast was great, so I wanted to try to have a whole day learning outside! We spent a little while talking about creature that might live in the school grounds and then using our imagination to imagine some strange creatures that we might like to see…we talked about the main body parts of small creatures and what parts we might have on an imaginary creature of our own. I explained that we were going to create our own ‘Clay Critter’ that was going to be made from the natural materials we could find in the outdoor spaces at school. Armed with a plastic bag, we all set off exploring, looking for items that could make ears, eyes, legs, antennae, tails, tentacles, spines… and all the other body parts they had thought of! The children were very excited about being able to crawl around in the small wooded area, which is very rarely used by the school…. they loved clambering around and searching the leaf little for interesting bits and pieces. The also loved some of the flower heads of the grasses… perfect for tails they thought!
I had bought a large tarpaulin sheet and we laid this out in the shade. The children then sorted all the materials out on their bags so they could see what they had. They were each then given a blob of air-dry clay and they could use that to form the main body of their creature. It was totally up to them and their imaginations how they used it and all the materials they had collected, to create their own creature! The whole class were SO engrossed, it was a pleasure to see them all out in the fresh air , searching through their materials and discussing their creature.
Their creations were great and there were some fantastic discussions as they told me all about them.
Once finished, we laid them all out so we could share them with the rest of the class.
Part of the follow-up was to create a labelled drawing of their creature, explaining what the body parts were for . They had to give their creature a name and think about where it might live and what it might eat. Remember, these children are only Year 1!!
In the afternoon, I worked with small groups on a spot of pond dipping. They loved scooping in the school pond! With the fish present, there was not a tremendous amount of life, but they were still happy to catch pond snails, pond skaters and a damselfly nymph. They were also treated to some lovely views of damselflies around the pond area.
A fantastic few days with this great infant school!
If you are interested in booking me to work with you in your school, then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org