Thank you for coming to read my blog, though I can’t promise it won’t be a long one as it’s been a pretty busy couple of months!
My name is Jenny and along with my partner in crime Carolyn (No pic of us together yet as Carolyn’s superpower is dodging my selfie attempts) are the new Natural Networks learning trainees. We are based with East Ayrshire Council at St. Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, and are part of their Learning Outdoors Support Team (LOST). I’ve just moved to Killie from The Wirral and I’m glad to say have been made to feel extremely welcome. I’ve discovered the joy of snowballs and teacakes and been to two whole pub quizzes so I think I can safely say I’m as good as local now. Carolyn is guiding me in the ways of a Scottish lassie as she is a local West Kilbride gal. As an ex primary school teacher she has a great wealth of knowledge and experience working with children (she would hate that I’m telling you this but it is true) and is mega passionate about outdoor learning.
Our roles will involve helping the schools in East Ayrshire take the classroom outside, to get the most out of their school grounds and to also hopefully transform them into biodiversity hot-spots with plants and beasties galore for the children to explore. Connecting children with nature and the world around them is obviously hugely important and of course beneficial to both the children and the environment. Having the opportunity to contribute to increasing children’s access to green space during our traineeships is immensely exciting. If we can help improve the attainment, well being and happiness of the children we will be working with in the process, then we will be happy, proud bunnies indeed.
So we kicked off our traineeship by shadowing Susan Rutherford on her school Green Gym sessions with eight Secondary schools around East Ayrshire. This project gives a group of pupils from each school the opportunity to be involved in developing their school grounds, whilst learning new skills and getting more active outdoors. We’ve been digging, litter picking, shoveling wood chip, planting bulbs and willow weaving just to name a few of the many tasks undertaken during the sessions.
We’ve also had a fantastically multifarious (word of the month) training schedule, from lichen and bumblebee ID to fundraising and basic expedition leadership. I’ve found the latter the most challenging as my reputation for frequently getting lost is not undeserved. This course relies heavily on navigation skills and the ability to pass said skills onto children. Trying not to get lost in the rainy Moorlands of Muirkirk and Muirshiel has been an adventure indeed and I’m proud to say I didn’t and can now use a compass. Our ID courses have given us new obsessions and we can frequently be found eyeing up tree branches for ‘Old man’s beard’ Lichen or stopping mid sentence to chase a Bumblebee. We’re very keen to pass on these obsessions to the children and have them also feel inspired by these little creatures.
As well as our work with the schools we’ve had numerous opportunities to get stuck in with some other TCV projects in the area. A fun time was had helping out at the British Science week event at Maryhill, showing off pond beasties and making badges. We got involved in some bog preservation work with both the Stirling and Glasgow volunteer groups and also attended a swarm event at Possil Park, helping with their community garden project.
We’re now excited to be looking forward towards the rest of our year working with local primary schools. We’ve met lots of lovely and enthusiastic teachers and have been out and about investigating some of the school grounds. We’ve spent a lot of the school holidays brainstorming ideas and will hopefully get started on them soon.
Thanks for reading