Category Archives: education

One Day Wild Summer Event

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Join us for a great day of wild activities at Duart Castle. See more information on the event page or contact Rachel on either 07540792650 or rachelannfrench92@gmail.com

Booking is essential and spaces will be limited so don’t leave it too late.

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Day 23: Den building 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 23

On Thursday the Ulva Primary School children vacated the premises for the polling station and visited Lochdonhead Primary School for the day. These primary schools are under a joint head teacher and have great links, giving the children chances to make friends outside of their own small number.

At Lochdon school, the children have access to a brilliant patch of woodland within easy walking distance which gives amazing outdoor learning opportunities (at Ulva Primary we use a local beach as an outdoor learning area). We made the most of the schools being together and spent the morning working on teamwork skills in the woodland school.

The walk into the forest area is great for wildlife too, with flower-filled road verges boasting orchids, daisies, dandelions and birds-foot trefoil. The kids also spotted a slow-worm on the track and knowing it posed no threat they were excited to see the reptile. We talked about why it was a lizard and not a snake, nor even a worm and chatted about the differences between male and female before leaving it in peace to find cover.

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A slow-worm – I took this a wee while back! 

The children were split into mixed school teams and were tasked to build a den. Outdoor education like this really gives the kids a chance to develop life skills and highlights areas that need more support. Confidence, communication, risk management and compromising were all required and some fared better than others, but on reflection all the children could discuss areas to improve and what worked well. This outdoor activity also encourages creativity and free thinking – brilliant skills which lead to creative futures in the real world. Plus, being out in nature has numerous health benefits!

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

 

Day 22: Home grown 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 22

We spent some time in the garden at school on the afternoon making sure everything was growing as it should be! We repotted the tomatoes which are doing brilliant well. This time outdoors for children is really valuable and gives a great understanding of where food comes from. Growing your own food is extremely rewarding and children appreciate it even more.

I’m growing chillies at home at the moment and I noticed the first chilli coming through this morning! I was super excited and I’m looking forward to using it in my cooking. Everyone can grow something, no matter the limited space you have and it’s definitely worth it, you can’t beat the taste and freshness of home grown too – home grown salad leaves cannot be bettered!

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WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 16: Wild Child flower ID 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 16 

Today at school we spent the afternoon completing another Wildlife Action Award activity. We went out in the rain to snap photos of the wildflowers in the school garden to later ID. We found lots around the edges of the garden (the areas the council aren’t so against) and checked some flowers out up close with hand lenses. We found foxgloves, self-heal, red campion, tutsan, cuckoo flower, stickyjacks, daisies, bramble, flag iris and more. The children looked up information and the gaelic names for the species before drawing and labelling some of their favourites. We chatted about Charles Darwin and ensured our curiosity was up to his standards whilst enjoying the sound of lapwing and skylark overhead. It’s important that children appreciate our native wildflowers and learn some of their names, after many common species names were removed from the English dictionary!

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

 

 

Day 10: Letter to MP & wild gifts 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild

Day 10

Yesterday at school I worked with the children on their Wildlife Action Awards through the RSPB. We’re now aiming for our gold level award, having already received our bronze and silver for completing a 12 different wildlife related activities including making bird boxes, beach cleaning, creating a bug hotel and pond dipping. One of our chosen activities for the gold level was writing to our local MP about an issue in our local area.

We brainstormed and the children came up with some brilliant, insightful ideas with regard to improving things for local wildlife on the island. They were angry that people drove so fast, killing lots of our wildlife and were unhappy about the levels of litter on and around the island. On a national scale, they also mentioned the continued persecution of beavers in Perthshire, they couldn’t understand why we’d bring them back to allow them to be shot on a regular basis. Despite not having any squirrel species native on Mull, the children are well aware of the threat grey squirrels pose to our British reds and mentioned this too. This level of awareness, despite living on an isolated island is amazing.

We finally decided to write about the litter in our local seas and suggest ways to improve the situation. The children did an amazing beach clean in May this year, collecting well over 50 bags of litter, but this doesn’t fix the real problem. The children want to install signage advising people to “Bag it, bin it and keep our oceans clean”. These would be in busy areas around pontoons and ferry terminals, or busy beaches. They also suggest more recycling bins onsite and they’d love reverse vending machines, to encourage people to recycle plastic bottles and pick up other people’s litter. They have sent the letter to Mr Brendan O’Hara (SNP) and Mr John Finnie (Green party).

Plus, yesterday for my birthday I received some lovely wild gifts including ammonite fossil earrings and a book on ravens which I’m very excited to read – “Mind of the Raven, investigations and adventures with wolf birds” by Bernd Heinrich. This year I was privilege to watch a raven nest site, situated on a secluded sea cliff. The pair raised four youngsters and they all fledged successfully. They are incredibly interesting birds and I’m sure this book will make them all the more interesting.

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WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 8: Wild School Gardening 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 8 

At Ulva Primary we spent the afternoon in out in the school grounds, preparing some planters for our vegetables and flowers. The children have grown tomatoes, courgettes, leeks and some flowers from seed this year and they’re all ready to be relocated in the garden. Whilst clearing the planters the kids found plenty of wildlife and aren’t afraid to touch and feel, often bringing me the creature to identify, before safely returning it to the wild.

One planter is no longer accessible to us – ants have moved in. What look to be yellow meadow ants have created their colony in the pot. We happily left them in peace and moved on. The children also found butterfly caterpillars and enjoyed watching a race between two garden snails. All the while our blue tit parents whizzed in and out of their nest box and the swallows overhead chattered.

We also found a moth pupa and are keeping a close eye on it to see which species emerges. The pupa itself had us all engrossed as it wriggled in defence. Hopefully, the moth emerges in the next few weeks before the schools are on holiday, so soon for Scottish children!

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Moth pupa – species ID welcome! 

Wild Child Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 1: Wild Reading 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 1 

The nature gods are blessing the Isle of Mull with incredible weather at the moment so every chance we get throughout the workday we’re outside, soaking up the blue skies and sunshine rays. Today, instead of heading straight home and getting irate at our busy seasonal roads, I took a wild break to read and enjoy the stunning place I call home.

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My drive to work is amazing, with the very scenic Loch na Keal making up around 7 miles of the 19 mile journey. I pulled off the road to read my current natural history book out in the fresh air, surrounded by bird song and sparkling water.

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I also wandered in bare feet over the warm, volcanic rocky shore line and cooled my feet in the crystal clear seawater. Numerous small crabs scuttled near my bare toes and I marvelled at the colours of the periwinkles. From the photo you wouldn’t even know I was in the water!

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WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

WildChild hands on: bird feeders

WildChild hands on: quick, fun ways to get our children doing and making! 

An easy way to connect to wildlife and get our hands a little dirty is to make bird feeders! Leading up to the Big Schools Birdwatch, a nationwide citizen science project ran by the RSPB we got our mits grimy by making lardy pine cone feeders and lardy cupcakes. This was also one of our tasks for the Wildlife Action Awards, we’re working towards our bronze level and we will have completed six wildlife supporting tasks soon.

Pine cones are brilliant, natural method of creating a bird feeder – involving no plastic or expensive bought equipment. It also allows the kids to hunt for them in a local park or woodland, giving them some fresh air and breathing space. So why not head out and see if you can collect some from the woodland floor before it springs back to life? Much of our country is still experiencing some cold and stormy weather with snow hitting some areas, so putting out small amounts of bird food now can be a great help.

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Mixing the lard, peanuts and mixed fruit

Allow your pine cones to dry out – place them by a radiator or in a warm space to speed the process and then you can get started. You can alter the ingredients and try different bird food recipes, but stick to unsalted peanuts and other unprocessed, natural products! Here is what we used:

Unsalted lard (you can also use suet)

Unsalted peanuts 

Mixed fruit i.e. raisins/sultanas etc 

Desiccated coconut (soak in water before using) 

Leave the lard in a warm spot to soften and then get mixing! Make sure the kids get hands on and mix all the ingredients up really well. Once the lard and the tasty extras are mixed you can add it to the cones (attach some natural fibre string or wool first, so that you can hang them outside easily). The mixture needs to fill in all the nooks and crannies on the cones and make them a brilliant bird treat. Pop them in the fridge to harden and then they’re ready to go!

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Filling the pine cones with bird food

If you have any leftover mixture you can get creative and come up with ideas to re-use regular items. We used some non-recyclable yoghurt pots and cupcake cases to make some lardy bird cupcakes! There are never ending possibilities! Get the children to develop their own recipes and try them out – whose is the most popular with the garden birds and do they attract different species?

Garden birds are a brilliant way to connect to wildlife. They can be relied upon to be at your  table most days and can give hours of enjoyment. Take it a step further and pop up a nest box to replace the many natural sites humans have removed and enjoy a family soap opera at home or in the school grounds!

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Our finished results – we had great garden visitors & sold the remainder at our community cafe. 

Chick Books = Kids books

Horus the Peregrine 

Naturalist and children’s author, John Miles is the creator of Chick Books, a brilliant and growing collection of nature based children’s books. A perfect way to inspire and enthral younger generations.

Horus the Peregrine is currently one of four titles so far, with three more due to be released this year. Horus is brought to life as a peregrine falcon chick growing up fast in the UK’s busy capital city, London. Horus fights for food and space in the nest along with his two sisters and brother whilst his parents provide them with regular feral pigeons. An inspiring aspect is the urban location, both children and adults might be surprised to find the peregrine falcon nesting on the Houses of Parliament! This could be the final bit of encouragement city dwelling families need to find nature on their doorsteps; nature is out there and can be found in the most unexpected places.

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Peregrine falcon – inspiring species

The fantastic illustrations bring life to the well known London sights as the story continues; Horus leaves the nest and begins to explore the area, dropping by Buckingham PalaceTrafalgar Square and the London Eye. The text is fun and full of interesting facts, safe to say I learnt a few things too – great for adults as well as the younger generations. The information is diverse; readers will enjoy species facts, learning more about the peregrine falcon, how ancient Egypt felt about falcons all those years ago and even some historic battle details!

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Iconic locations in urban areas

The book also touches lightly on an emotive but serious issue peregrine falcons face in the United Kingdom’s countryside; illegal killing and persecution to increase red grouse numbers on shooting estates. Humans can be greedy and cruel so it’s important that our children understand that nature needs help. Readers of Horus the Peregrine may well be our next generation of conservationists, ecologists and wildlife lovers so its great that the author covers the whole story.

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Hidden world of British countryside

Overall, Horus the Peregrine is a perfect book for children, families and adults alike. It’s a great book to enjoy together and encourage a love of wildlife. No matter where you live, everyone should be able to connect with nature and be inspired. Books are a brilliant way to capture an imagination, the added bonus with a nature book is that the imagined can become reality – we can get our children outdoors and they can experience the pages for real. What better way to reverse the modern disconnection from nature and books all at the same time.

Chick Books can all be purchased online, follow the links below or head over to Chick Books to see more reviews and information and be sure to follow on Twitter @Chick_Books for regular updates on new releases, like ‘Fred the Chaffinch’ and ‘Mavis the Song Thrush’ both due out this year.

Waterstones  NHSB   Amazon 

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Fred the Chaffinch – released soon

Our plastic challenge

Children are born into a plastic way of life – plastic is now the normality. Older generations know differently. I remember glass milk bottles on the doorstep, delivered every morning by a local milkman. I don’t recall much more than that, but the next generation up will. They’ll remember paper bags, reusable nappies, glass bottles you took to the shop to refill. Plastic, especially the one-use disposable items is now a global threat to the planet, and the threat is only escalating. Our children grow up taking plastic for granted, with no education into the problems it creates. If our youngest generations aren’t made aware of this environmental and health issue we’re never going to get a handle on it.

Disposable life style

Believe it or not, we produce almost 300 million tonnes of plastic each year. It has nowhere to go, other than into our oceans or landfill sites to cause endless years of chemical leaching, marine devastation and more. We’ve all seen those horrendous images of albatross carcasses full of plastic, or seals, whales and dolphins with plastic rubbish wrapped around their bodies. So why aren’t we doing something about it? Plastic producers are still churning out hazardous plastic packaging every day, tonnes of the stuff – despite knowing full well that it doesn’t go anywhere. Our plastic isn’t disposable, degradable or even fully recyclable. Once we’ve made it and let it loose into the world it’ll be there for life, a life much longer than yours or mine. How ironic that we use the least disposable material for our daily disposable items, coffee cups, plates, knives, forks, bottles – the one-use list is never ending.

Plastic terrifies me, it has to be one of the biggest issues facing environmental and human health right now and yet we can’t get it away from it. Plastic is everywhere, just look around and count how many plastic items you can see from wherever you’re sitting. In America around 50 billion ‘one-use’ plastic water bottles are used per year, and thats only for water! Add on the coke, pepsi and multitude of plastic bottled soft drinks consumed just as often! We’re now paying more for bottled water than we pay for fuel, yet we guzzle it with complete ignorance. This bottled water is usually the same we’d get straight from our tap, only with the added negative of harmful, leaching chemicals used in the plastic, and often particularly in America the added wide ranging impacts when the bottled water companies move in and simply take local water.

Plastic warriors

I began looking into my life of plastic in 2015 after watching an inspiring and rather horrific TED talk. Angered, I watched more talks online and came across Beth Terry talking about her plastic free life. Her determination to remove plastic entirely from her life was brilliant and refreshing, see her website here http://myplasticfreelife.com/about-me/.

So, whilst reading her book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too I took the “Plastic Challenge” for one week – collecting and recording all of my plastic waste over the course of seven days. This was illuminating, and once again fairly terrifying, as is Beth Terry’s great book. Plastic use is enormous and the more you think the more you realise just how much we rely upon it.

My Plastic Challenge (13th-20th July 2015)

You can see the plastic I accumulated in just one week (admittedly late in writing this post, last July when I took the challenge!). Some of this is easier to avoid, some not so much – especially when living on a rural Scottish island with limited shopping options. Some of the waste seems completely idiotic. Why do CO-OP and many other supermarkets wrap their turnips in plastic? Surely this very tough vegetable has a great, naturally protecting skin? Plastic windows set in the paper, just so you can see the fresh baked bread you want to buy. Or how about a plastic window in the cardboard box of lasagne pasta sheets? They’re just so interesting to look at!

2x milk cartons
1x cordial bottle
1x bleach bottle
2x shampoo bottles
1x washing up liquid bottle
4x plastic packaging bags from online shopping
x9 individual chocolate bar wrappers
x1 chocolate bar outside wrapper
4x biscuit wrappers
x1 bacon carton
x1 plastic yoghurt lid
x1 sticker from LUSH shampoo bar
x1 roast chicken tray and cling film cover
x1 mushroom tray and cling film cover
x1 garlic bread packet
x2 new potato packets
x1 trimmed leek packet
x1 small lunch steak pie packet
x1 turnip wrapper
x1 plastic window from fresh coop bread

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My plastic challenge

To change the current reliance on plastic people need to speak up and do something about it themselves. Unless the consumers change, the huge plastic churning and plastic packaging companies won’t. Marine conservation bodies are doing their bit, as the ocean stands to suffer the most but if more of us don’t wake up to the issue now we’ll be stuck in this plastic life cycle.

Plastic commodity 

Our children need to be educated with regard to plastic, they need to see that better alternatives exist and they need to understand that recycling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Schools are brilliant these days – they compost and recycle and they have ‘turn of the light’ signs everywhere. Of course doing this is better than not, but recycling plastic waste isn’t the answer; most plastics can only be recycled once or twice before they end up in landfill or in the ocean. We’re growing a whole new army of people that see plastic as a commodity and we really need to change that early on.

This is our global plastic challenge.