Last week, four members of staff from our ecology and habitats teams made a visit to Wood Street Infant School. Armed with a toad, a blackbird’s nest and animal photos, we were greeted by a sea of excited 4 and 5 year olds all eager to spend the morning exploring the wild.
We started in the classroom teaching the children about what ecologists do, the importance of protecting certain wild animals, and how we work to look after them. Many were eager to share with us their knowledge of wild animals in Britain – with tigers being a personal favourite! We taught our new recruits the methods we can use to protect animals, from translocating reptiles so that they are safe from new developments, to building tunnels to protect toads from new roads.
After a quick break for the children to be kitted out in their PPE (wellies and waterproof trousers to protect them from nettles), we were ready to venture into the wild. Our route led us through woodland paths and meadows and we stopped to talk about interesting plants, watch butterflies and listen to bird calls along the way. The stars aligned and we heard a great tit, the call of which sounds like the word “teacher”, much to the children’s delight!
After our walk we left the children to let off some steam in their outdoor classroom whilst we got to work collecting specimens from the nearby pond. We found a toadlet, a dragonfly nymph case, a caterpillar chrysalis, snails, spiders and a butterfly, and rejoined the children to show them our findings. We taught them the differences between frogs and toads, the life cycle of dragonflies and butterflies and how bird species use different materials to make their nests.
We were impressed by the children’s knowledge of ecology and were tempted to return to the office with some new junior ecologists in tow! With the busy field season in full swing it was great to take the morning out to talk to the next generation about the importance of protecting wild animals and plants in Britain, hopefully inspiring a few budding ecologists along the way.