children and nature

Learning in the woods

We had a wonderful day of learning at our local nature school today. Woods are wonderful places to visit with children. This wood is a native woodland, being managed by traditional means such as coppicing. Bernard and Zane run many courses here including forest schools, wild foraging, school visits and woodland management courses.  Today’s “Wonder of the Woods” day was a family day.


We were there to help talk about the wonderful diverse wildlife from birds, insects to woodland flora.

The kids enjoyed running about, climbing,  building shelters, making charcoal pencils, and leaf rubbings.

Charcoal pencil

Charcoal pencil

Afterwards we enjoyed sausages cooked on an open fire, and for dessert toasted marshmallows! A perfect end to a great day. And a big thank you to Bernard and Zane and all their family.

 

Advertisements

Summer time – Beach fun!

Going to the beach in the summer is one of our favourite family activities. This year we have really got into our sandcastle building. It’s a great way to get creative! Use whatever is lying around – sand, stones, feathers, seashells, even seaweed.

Think of the sand as a giant canvas ready for drawing pictures and making patterns. If there is no sand use rocks, shells and stones.

 

There is lots to see.  Rock pools can be great places to explore. Look out for little fish, shellfish, hermit crabs and anemones. If you find a crab look out for those sharp pincers because even though they are small they are not afraid to use them. Jellyfish sometimes get washed up, but be careful some can sting.

HAVE FUN!!

Get outside! Get Muddy! Have Fun!

I was lucky as a child I got to spend as much time out of doors as I wanted. I could roam through fields, play down at the stream. There was noting to stop me and only the wonder of nature to guide me. In recent months, there has been an increasing amount of research published that is showing worrying trends on the amount of time children are spending out of doors. In a recent Guardian newspaper article, it was reported that children are spending less time outside than prisoners:

“The new survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 parents of 5-12 year olds and found 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day. UN guidelines for prisoners require ‘at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily‘”.

What is more the research has shown 18% of children spent no time outdoors on an average day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So in 2016, what stops children getting outside? An article in the British newspaper The Express reports on the reasons parents give for not allowing their children outdoors, including the weather, lack of time and the fact that the children just wanted to stay inside. From my perspective as a parent I know that each of these are valid points. It rains a lot in Ireland, but we have have waterproof coats and trousers and have been known to go for walks in the rain.Often my children won’t go out unless there is an adult that will go out with them, so I need to make time. But the thing is once the children are out there they just need to know I am near, they don’t need me to play with them, I can be getting on with some gardening while they are taking their imaginary dogs for a walk (that was what they were doing today!). And yes, children like nothing better than sitting on the sofa having screen time, but what is that doing for them? So we try and just have half an hour screen time a day. It doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does.

According to the Huffington Post, who were reporting on a study commissioned by UK’s Eco Attractions Group, there are children who have never had a picnic in their back garden, never built a sandcastle or jumped in a muddy puddle. I would say that these are activities that should not only be enjoyed by every child but also by every adult. So as a parent or guardian of a child, why not get out there with your kids. Have a picnic, go for a walk, buy some Wellington boots and a raincoat and have some fun in the rain.

Research shows that outdoor play is essential for childrens’ development and it makes them happier and calmer. Being outside helps children learn to explore, it allows them to use their imagination without the aid of modern electronic gadgets. As parents it is time we allowed our children to get muddy, let them make mud piles, let them get their hands dirty, let them feel the soil and grass on their hands, and even let them climb a tree – all this connects them with nature. Who cares if they get dirty – that is why we have baths and washing machines!

 

Further reading:

The Wild Network – This is a network of  people and organisations with a collective vision to re-wild childhood, increase time outside and help children thrive in the 21st century.

Last Child in the Wood a book by Richard Louv

Dirt is Good a campaign by Persil to get more kids outdoors

 

 

 

 

Green-Schools – Biodiversity

Green-Schools, known internationally as Eco-Schools, is an international environmental education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole school action for the environment. Biodiversity is the fifth theme of the Green-Schools programme.

I am on our local school’s green school committee (Eco-schools) and we have started working toward the school’s biodiversity green flag. I love working with the children they are so enthusiastic and full of ideas.

One of our first tasks as a committee was to map our school grounds. The school is situated in a small village so is lucky to be surrounded by green fields, and hedgerows. There is even a stream just over the school fence.

A couple of weeks ago we spent the afternoon making bird and bat boxes with 1st and 2nd class. My husband had a busy week cutting out the wood and drilling holes so that all the kids had to do on the day was assemble the boxes and hammer them together. It was noisy but the kids had great fun and no one hammered their fingers! The boxes will be placed in the school grounds to encourage birds and bats to use it more.

 

Last Friday we are started an after school’s gardening club. I hope to keep everyone up to date with our progress here.

RESOURCES

Bird box plans

Bat Box plans

 

 

Frogs

Here in Ireland it’s the time of year to talk about frogs. Two weeks ago I noticed the first frog spawn in a local drain and today I counted 38 frogs in our garden pond!

Frogs are amphibians. In Ireland, we only have three amphibians; one species of frog (the Common Frog) and one species of toad (The Natterjack toad, only found in Kerry) and one species of newt (Smooth newt).

Amphibians need watCommon froger to breed but spend most of their time on land. They eat slugs as well as other insects so are a great addition to any garden.

Each clump of spawn you see is from one female – so if you count the clumps you can estimate how many females have been visiting your pond. Frogs will travel up to half a mile to get to a water source to spawn.

How long the spawn takes to hatch into tadpoles depends on the temperature of the water. The warmer the water the quicker the tadpoles hatch.

Check out any ponds or drains near you and see if you can see any spawn. Remember frogs (and their spawn) are protected under Irish law. If you are a school teacher follow this link to the National Parks and Widlife Service and see how you can get a license to collect spawn for classroom learning.

Common frog

Common frog

 

 

Activities:

Common frog colouring sheet from Froglife UK

Craft – Make a pebble frog from Froglife UK

For lots of fun easy activities for young kids check out www.activityvillage.co.uk/frog-worksheets

 

Resources:

Frog life cycle sheet

Irish Peatland Conservation Council have a detailed page on frogs if you want to learn more

 

All Ireland Pollinator Plan – Junior Version

Here in Ireland the National Biodiversity Data Centre have just produce a junior version of the 2015-2020 All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Pollinators include wild bees including bumblebees, butterflies and other insects. This junior plan is a great resource particularly for schools. It includes lots of ideas on actions you can take to help pollinators both at home and in your school grounds. There are also lots of fun facts about pollinators and why they are so important. And also some information about why bees are under threat.

junpollplan

 

There are even a few bee jokes!

What bee is good for your health?

Vitamin Bee

 

Have you any good bee or butterfly jokes ? Post in the comments below.

As the weather gets warmer I hope to do some more pollinator activities. In the meantime, think about what you can plant in your garden to attract some bees.

Wildlife in your Garden

Happy New year! Here we are in the brand new 2016 and there is much to do and much to learn, and most important of all lots of fun to have.

One of the things I want to do this year is to get an even better idea about all the wild things that live in my garden and I’d like you to join me.

In May every year the world celebrates International Biodiversity Day. Last year in Ireland we were asked to record all the plants and animals in our gardens. I concentrated on wild flowers, trees, butterflies, bees, birds and mammals and got 64 species!

So now it is over to you. Why not go into your garden, or if you don’t have a garden go to your nearest park or green space and find ten different wild things? They could be birds, plants, trees, insects, animals – what ever you want. But they must be wild, so your dog or cat won’t count!

GardenBio_table

 

You can use this form to help you. If you want to print out, right click on your mouse and select “copy image”, then paste into a programme you use such as “word” or paint”.

You may think January is a strange time of year to look for wildlife things but you may be surprised at what you find. Here is my table:

GardenBio_table2

Why not let me know what you find in the comment box below. Have fun!

Getting kids back to nature: what we’ve learned so far

An interesting post from the National Trust in the UK about the Wildlife Trust’s Every Child Wild Campaign – all about getting kids back to nature. You can read more on the Wildlife Trust’s webpage – http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/everychildwild/2015/11/11/tom-seaward-every-child-wild

National Trust Places

This month the Wildlife Trusts launched their Every Child Wild campaign, pledging to ‘make nature a part of growing up’. In this blog, first published on the Wildlife Trusts website, the National Trust’s Tom Seaward writes about what we’ve learned from four years of getting kids back to nature.

Children playing by the lake at West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire Children playing by the lake at West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire ©National Trust Images/John Millar.

It was the first queue for the woods I’ve seen.

Only 10AM and already the festival was baking under a high sun, fighting with the dust stamped up by hundreds of children and their desperate parents.

All this for the woods?

Well, not quite for the woods. For the chance to climb a high oak in the manner of a tree surgeon.

It was a brief hot spell in the summer of 2014. The place: Camp Bestival, a family music festival along the Dorset coast.

A…

View original post 407 more words

Garden Birds – The finches

Continuing on our theme of garden birds I thought we’d have a look at some finches. In our garden here in Ireland, we get greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches and bullfinches. Finches are found all over the world. It’s interesting to note that the America Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) looks totally different from our Irish goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis).

As you may be able to guess from their beaks the finches are seed eaters, though they do take some insects too. Chaffinches are among the most common finches. You’ll find all four of the finch species in gardens, parks and hedgerows.

The greenfinches are adept at hanging off peanut feeders as are the goldfinch, but only some chaffinches master the trick. They are seen more commonly underneath the feeders picking up what has been dropped by the other birds. The bullfinches appear to be more shy and I don’t think we have ever seen them on our feeders, though they are regular visitors to the garden.

It’s a good idea to plant things in your garden that will provide finches with food. Teasel is a great plant. And don’t be too quick to pull out weeds. Every spring I love watching the bullfinches as they make their way around the dandelions growing in the gaps of our patio removing the seeds. Allow grass to grow tall too and the birds will come and feed on the seed heads.

 

Resources

You can view photos of all our Irish finches on the Birdwatch Ireland page.

Activities

Take part in a garden bird survey. BirdwatchIreland’s garden bird survey starts the 1st of December.

Colour in a chaffinch

 

Autumn Leaves

Before the wind blows them all away, lets have a quick look at our autumn leaves.

Leaves

Leaves

 

You may be wondering why leaves change colour?

The reason leaves are green in the first place is because they have something called chlorophyll. When sunlight hits the chlorophyll it makes food for the trees. But in the winter there isn’t enough sunlight, because the days are short. So the choloophyll shuts down and the leaves look yellow and orange. The yellow comes from something called  xanthophyll and the orange comes from carotene, the same thing that gives carrots their colour. These colours were there all the time but in the summer the green is so strong it covers them over. And as for those leaves that turn red, they have food trapped inside and those that turn brown have waste material trapped in their leaves.

RESOURCES AND THINGS TO DO

  • In our house one of our favourite autumn activities is leaf rubbing. Find some nice leaves (make sure they are dry). Turn them up-side-down and place a sheet of white paper over the top. Using one hand to keep leaf in place use a crayon to rub out it’s detail. I like to use big thick crayons. For a step by step guide check out this link from First Palette
  • Nature Detectives have some great leaf ID guides
  • They also have some great leaf activity pages including this lovely autumnal tree on dark paper and a leaf treasure hunt

 

HAVE FUN!