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 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.
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)
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!
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!