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How to invite more wildlife into your school

Friday, February 22, 2019

How to invite more wildlife into your school

 

When you live or work around children, heading outside and ‘becoming one with nature’ (perhaps not that extreme!) can be a great deal of fun and educational – no matter what age you are.

It’s vital we take steps to care for our planet, not to mention the creatures that live within it, which is why the UK government has christened 2019 as the ‘Year of Green Action’.

The Year of Green Action is a way of connecting children with nature, and £10m has been put aside for a Nature-Friendly Schools Programme. Our home county of Kent is backing this campaign and the Kent Environment Strategy by hosting the ‘Kent Year of Green Action’, a project run by Explore Kent and the Kent Children’s University.

With this in mind, we thought it would be fun to come up with ways your school can invite wildlife into its environment!

Feed the birds (tuppence a bag…)

As more and more of the country’s land is developed, there are fewer and fewer natural habitats for our beautiful feathered friends to live and find food. Installing a nesting box or two within your school’s playground will encourage birds to come and breed there, as well as shelter them from harsh weather.

You can purchase ready-made bird boxes or, depending on the age of your students, make one! Check out the RSPB’s guide to building a bird box.

RSPB birdhouse guide

If a birdhouse seems too much of a mission, you could also try making a bird feeder. In the colder months, particularly when the ground is harder, bird feeders become crucial. You may also get some squirrel friends!

Making bird feeders is an activity suitable for children of all ages.

All you need is:

  • Plastic bottles
  • Clean yoghurt pots/milk cartons
  • Wire or string
  • Birdseed (be aware if there are children in your class with nut allergies)
  • Scissors

Steps to building your birdfeeder:

  1. Cut a window in the side of the bottle (enough for the birds to reach the feed but not so big it falls out)
  2. Poke a couple of holes in the base of the bottle for rainwater to drain from
  3. Tie your wire/string around the neck of the bottle and hang from a tree or washing line

RSPB child-friendly bird feeder made from bottle

Remember to recycle and make a new one if it wears out or goes mouldy!

(Source: RSPB)

Why not see if your school will allow you to plant a couple of trees or create a hedgerow? Birds love to create nests in areas such as these.

Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log…

Did anyone else love this song when they were at school?

Creating a wildlife pond is another fantastic way of inviting more nature into your school’s community. If you can spare a little room for one of these, you have the chance of seeing frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies and much, much more – especially if you add in plants.

A wildlife pond doesn’t have to be large; even one that’s a metre or so in length and half as wide will host a family of happy amphibians!

All you will need is a plank of wood, pond liner, rocks, builder’s sand, and the rest you will find below…

Itsy bitsy spider (and friends)

Now that we’ve looked into helping our friends in the sky and in the water, let’s not forget about those who live on the ground!

Create a critter hotel

All you need is a collection of old logs, which you can find at a tree surgeons or firewood dealers, and you simply pile them up in a shady spot. Bugs, birds, hedgehogs, frogs and more will love this area.

If it’s easier to get your hands on rocks rather than logs, a rock pile will go down equally as well in the animal kingdom, or if you’re feeling extra creative, you could try building a hedgehog home. Did you know that since 2002, we have lost around 30% of our hedgehog population?

How to build a critter hotel

Grow a wild patch

Not only does a wild patch or nature garden look pretty, but it will also make a lot of animals very happy.

Simply allow an area of grass to grow without being touched – whatever your school can spare. You can also sprinkle in wildflowers for added benefits to the ecosystem or plant lavender to attract our buzzing friends, the bees (just warn the children not to try playing with these friends – they’re visiting on a look and don't touch basis!).

In doing this, you will help to feed the likes of caterpillars and butterflies, as well as provide a place for mice, birds and amphibians to hide.

If you want to get really fancy, The Wildlife Trust has some great ideas on how to make a wildlife garden.

How to grow a wildlife garden

Leave out food

How cool would it be to see a hedgehog or a badger? It would mean setting up a camera (ani-cam?) but imagine the look on the students’ faces!

You can buy special hedgehog food; however, they will also eat tinned cat or dog food (not fish-based). If you leave food with a bowl of water, your prickly friends will be extremely grateful.

If you’re trying to tempt a badger into your playground, they will eat unsalted nuts, seeds or root vegetables. It’s important not to leave milk for badgers and hedgehogs, as it can cause an upset stomach.

Don’t be a litter bug

The greatest thing you can do to help wildlife is to encourage students to pick up their litter and dispose of it responsibly. Could you organise a monthly litter pick around your playing field or local park?

Affects of litter | environment

Don’t forget to enjoy it!

Once your wildlife area is established, that’s where the fun begins! Why not take regular visits outside during lessons to see what visitors you’ve had? Could your nature area be used to inspire projects for other lessons?


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