Wildlife fun brings outdoor classroom alive
THE RSPB has a spring in its step and is looking forward to another bustling season welcoming schools across Lancashire, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester to nature reserves.
You will have heard this before from yours truly, but the RSPB says that ‘getting out in nature has never been more important for our young people’. I rest my case.
Pre-Covid, over 25,000 children from across England took part in the Schools on Reserves programme, and now the RSPB is looking to make it even bigger and better for 2023.
Jo Taylor, RSPB Learning and Visitor Experience Officer at Fairhaven Lake, said: “We’re so excited to welcome school trips to RSPB Fairhaven Lake on the Ribble Estuary. Spring is an incredible time to get outside and discover the natural world, as new life emerges around every corner.
“Here at RSPB Fairhaven Lake, there’s lots to investigate and discover, the mudflats are packed with invertebrates and recent high tides and choppy seas have brought an abundance of ‘sea treasures’ to our shores.”
Studies show that learning outdoors builds children’s confidence and encourages a greater affinity with the natural world. It brings classroom learning to life, benefiting mental and physical wellbeing. It has also been shown to help children develop a deeper understanding of concepts and to use new skills.
The RSPB’s dedicated Education teams have a suite of curriculum-linked programmes to ensure that school visits are both fun and informative, and every site has been externally verified by the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge scheme. Primarily linked to Science and Geography, sessions encourage hands-on exploration and discovery whilst making connections to nature.
Jo added: “Our RSPB school trips encourage pupils to gain a curiosity about the natural world, they can help to develop their social and personal skills – growing in confidence and working together with classmates and teachers in our unique coastal sessions, and there are ample facilities in the purpose-built education and water sports centre on site.”
Both half-day and whole day visit options are available to book and there is also a bursary schools can apply for funding to assist with costs to RSPB sites, via ‘Hyundai Great British School Trip’. Trips can take place at any time of year, with bookings being taken now for the coming summer and autumn terms. With the summer full of ducklings and cygnets around the lake and gardens and scuttling crabs on the beach, the autumn brings a change, thousands of migrating birds feeding up on the estuary mudflats.
At RSPB Fairhaven Lake, nature-based sessions are on offer with a great opportunity to inspire pupils to talk about and develop this understanding of science and geography, to meet their learning objectives of working scientifically, and to use technical vocabulary in context.
Educational visits can also help to benefit pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, and the visual and sensory experiences available at RSPB Fairhaven Lake can deepen their understanding of topics and help them to engage with people and activities outside of the classroom. The RSPB also offers a range of activities, resources and opportunities that support teachers to take learning outdoors and inspire students to discover and delight in nature when back in the classroom.
To find out more, visit: https://rspb.org.uk/ fun-and-learning/ for-teachers/school-trips
The RSPB Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre is run in partnership with Fylde Borough Council and is the gateway to exploring the Ribble Estuary – one of the most important wetlands in the country and home to more than 250,000 birds.
What attracts so many birds? In a word – mud – wetland birds love it, and that is what attracts them to the Ribble Estuary. Packed with shellfish, worms and tiny, tasty creatures (for birds anyway), the mudflats are a buffet for hungry wading birds.
Curlew, redshank, godwit, knot, dunlin and oystercatcher are among the diners, as well as colourful ducks like wigeon, shelduck and pintail, but it’s not just about food. The Ribble Estuary is also a place where lots of different kinds of birds stop off on their migration journeys. Pink-footed geese come to rest over the long winter nights and stonechat, wheatear and redstart come to refuel on their way to and from their breeding grounds in autumn and spring. »●Regular readers will already know how, over many years, I have promoted healthy living and the benefits for mental health of the great outdoors. I have thrown my hand in with the men’s mental health charity, Mentell. Please check them out at www.mentell.org. uk