Anyone who knows me will be aware of how much I love working with kids in the outdoors. I have been a teacher for nearly 30 years now and I still get the same pleasure sharing the wonders of nature with kids, as I did when I first started teaching!
People often ask me about how things have changed now… about how so many children are disconnected with the natural world and how many of them never spend time outside. Many have said to me that children just aren’t interested any more. I strongly disagree with that. In my opinion, children are just as interested as they have ever been, but changes in our world, especially with the onset of so much technology, often mean they experience a virtual reality world rather than the real world. Why go into the local woodland when you can immerse your self in a 3D representation of a rainforest on your iPad? Why search for frog spawn when you can google it and see it on a screen without getting your feet or hands wet?
Of course, we all know the reasons why! A real experience uses all the senses. Close your eyes and imagine a woodland in Autumn. How would you describe experience from all your senses? If you follow my blog, you are probably already the kind of person who spends time outdoors, so you would easily be able to describe the sights, sounds, smells and the sensory experience that is a woodland. Nothing can beat the smell and atmosphere of a damp Autumnal woodland! No virtual experience can recreate that. How many of you have held frogspawn? If you have, you will remember strongly what that jellied mass feels like, especially as it runs through your fingers! It is experiences like this that stay with us for ever.
I have had groups of 11 year olds that have never seen frogspawn, let alone held it. On one trip to our school pond with a group of year 6 pupils, they asked me if the frogspawn was real! One said she had always wanted to see frogspawn! Then the most common question I get all the time…. ‘Can we touch it?’ Of course, you know what my answer was and those children will now have that wonderful nugget of wild memory stored for ever in their memory bank!
Yes, children often do spend less time outdoors nowadays. Yes, many have not experienced the natural world in a way that I take for granted. Their worlds of technology can seem very instant and exciting, yet I feel this very technology that often keeps them inside, should be helping them connect with the wildlife right on their doorstep!
I absolutely LOVE technology! I look at what children have at their fingertips now and wonder what I, as a nature-crazy youngster , would have done with it all! Wherever possible, I look for all the ways I can use this technology WITH the children, rather than battling to extract them from it. From digital cameras to sensors, nest box cams to trail camera, all of these can help children gain and interest and love of the natural world.
I have been using Bushnells with kids for a long time. They are such a super way to get them excited about what is in their own locality, especially what is there at night, when they have gone to bed. Whether this be in your back garden, when you are on holiday or in the school grounds, kids love using them and take to them much more quickly than adults often do! I have had very young children setting these up, collecting the card and uploading footage!
Last week, Ali, one of the teaching assistant at the school I work at, suggested she take a small group of boys to set the Bushnell up in our school grounds. I haven’t set one up there for a while, so I thought it was a great idea. The ‘Bushnell Boys’ were shown the trail cam and how to set it up. Looking around the Wild Learning Area at school, they chose a spot to place it as they could see some clear tracks in the grass. Ali bought some scraps from her Sunday roast and they set the camera up facing the food.
The next morning, the boys went and collected the card and uploaded the footage…. we couldn’t quite believe our eyes! There was a lot of excitement as the boys shared their finding with the class. Just take a look at their first captures…..
Obviously, setting it up and the prospect of appearing on the footage is pretty exciting to start with!
Then, they captured these…
but at night……
Spurred on by their success, this group have put the cam out all last week, with some more spectacular results!
Then a bit of an added bonus!!!
We have all been excited at school and these boys are going to share their findings with the rest of the school in an assembly. They are now learning about badgers, foxes and how these two creatures interact at night. As a direct result of their actions, they are attracting wildlife to their space and filming it. They have learnt about buzzards and magpies and we are already talking about building a feeding platform to see if we can get some better images of the buzzard.
This trail cam work has engaged these children, using the technology they love. Every day, they want to go and set the cam , look for tracks and signs and then they are excited about what they may have captured and what they might capture next. This footage was all captured with a fairly basic Bushnell. I am taking some of my higher resolution ones in next week for the boys to set so we can see if we can capture some more images and videos.
Well done boys and a big thank you to Ali, who has taken these boys out every day and then shared their findings with the rest of the class!
This is what learning is all about! 🙂