The days are closing in. The weather is getting colder. Shop managers are itching to get those Christmas decorations up. Invertebrates? They are not gone just yet but I have started to see a reduction in numbers as many die off or go for a wee snooze over the winter (lucky guys!). So over the past couple of months I have tried to expand my own horizons by attending training courses and taking in part in other TCV events not directly related to my speciality (you hear that?! I have a speciality! Me!). It also allowed me to develop a special project for TCV. So sit back and I will take you on a bug walk of the mind.
My project has taken up a lot of time over the past two months. It involves using the knowledge I have gained throughout my traineeship to develop lesson plans delivering outdoor education sessions based around invertebrates. The lesson plans are based around topics that I was constantly asked about during my bug walks throughout the first months of my traineeship: defence, life cycles, habitats and morphology of invertebrates.
The plans I have developed conform to the Scottish Governments curriculum for excellence and actively make the learning of these topics fun and engaging while utilising an outdoor space. From personal experience, I have always felt that outdoor spaces were not used to their fullest potential when I went to school and it is encouraging how much work can now be done with pupils in the outdoors. This, however, can still be improved upon.
I plan to hold a lesson with up to 10 schools and demonstrate the usefulness of the lessons with a hope for schools to take these other lessons on for further use. This resource could be used repeatedly over an extended time period. This would be the ideal legacy of my traineeship and if possible could be carried on in the future by other trainees.
I have already lead two lessons based around the “habitats” topic. These were lead at two schools in North Lanarkshire where I have worked at previously. Both are an absolute pleasure to teach: Allanton primary school and St Marys primary school. I demonstrated how they could easily build ladybird homes. These homes only required a bottle, a bit of cardboard, some string and of course – a lovely welcome mat drawing. After we hung them up in our local green spaces and awaited guests. I have recently been informed that Allanton has its first guest! A ladybird has actually moved into one of these palaces!!! We also built a wormery and got some lovely worm guests. This will help to highlight how worms aerate the soil and decompose some of the forests lovely leftovers giving us super soil! Watch this space
No that is not the Spanish way of saying “environmental games” but what I was actively saying throughout the course which was laid on by TCV. This was a lot of fun and was very helpful towards my development in the field which I intend to work in: Outdoor Education. These games are very helpful in guiding kinaesthetic learning. Through play children can pick up on difficult concepts like mindfulness and the hydrological cycle. Having a game in your back pocket can be very helpful if a class is struggling to behave or understand a topic. It was also tons of fun!!
BEWARE INVADERS WOOOOOOoooooOOOOOO
I attended a conference at the Raploch community campus based around invasive species. I listened to speakers highlight the damaging effect that species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and rhododendron are having on native plants and invertebrates. Where there are 284 and 324 insect and Lichen species respectively associated with Oak trees and absolutely none at all associated with Rhododendron (a plant that now covers 100,000ha – an area 2/3s the size of London) it highlights the scale of the problem that we are facing. The speakers elucidated this point perfectly. These was some discussion between different groups about the problem in a workshop format but you could tell that a problem such as this needs a lot more work to overcome. Organisations such as TCV are actively leading the fight against the roughshod rhodies and long may it continue.
WOODLAND LEADER TRAINED
As part of my traineeship I receive funding that allows me to take part in courses that normally might be beyond my reach financially and logistically. Through funding from my traineeship I was able to attend this course from the organisation “wild things”. This course proved quite useful. It allowed me to get a better understanding of methodology with concern to outdoor education. It also allowed me to learn about the flow of a lesson within the outdoors. The teaching staff were really lovely and it was incredibly useful to pick their brains about stuff be it: bush craft, safe fire lighting, ethno botanical stuff, dealing with problem behaviour or other environmental games to use. I would thoroughly recommend it as an introductory course into the world of being a woodland educator.
BIG JOLLY GREEN WEEKEND
As part of TCVs Big green weekend, the team held a special event at Jupiter urban wildlife centre in Grangemouth. It was a cracking day had by all as we held a number of activities designed to give the local public a wee taster of what TCV and the urban wildlife centre are all about. This involved cakes, bug walks, cakes, freshwater sampling, cakes, crafts and cakes. It was lovely; me and Jess bossed our bug walk, you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of stuff out at that time but what do you know we saw a dragonfly, damselfly and a peacock butterfly. The bugs can’t get enough of us…..
BME COMMUNITY FUN TIME
I got the pleasure to meet up with the kids of BME in Leith. Paul and Lucy where on hand to help me foist all of nature’s glories upon these fine young pupils. We made bird feeders (getting peanut butter and seeds everywhere!), demonstrated safe fires, learned about camouflage and did some bizarre bird calls. I will admit my lapwing needs work but my great tit is definitely spot on. Here’s hoping that we can meet again!
TO ME TO YOU – SKILL SHARES
During these traineeships we all try to go to as many courses as possible but sometimes you just cannot get to all the courses you want to go to, So Jess came up with the ingenious idea of having a skill share where we could relate all the lovely things that we have learned throughout our traineeships to each other and it was magic! I gave a gravely serious talk about invertebrates where I kept on saying: “BEEEEES!” over and over again. I think we all picked up a few wee nuggets here and there. My personal highlight was making knots. I was shocked at the amount of knots I have retained in my brain (also pretending that it was my first time: “look at this!! 1st time! Nae bother”). Other cool topics we learned: environmental education games to play with kids, fungi, mammal tracking, how to set up a health walk, foraging and seed collecting.
MUDDY TIMES AT GLENBOIG
In Glen Boig as part of North Lanarkshire’s buzzing I helped install some plug plants at Garnqueen loch. This was a lot of fun and really messy. There were about 2000 plants that needed planted and we got amazing help from a local school group who helped us power through. These plants should look cracking next year. They will provide extra food and habitats for pollinators and local dragonflies.
SPOOKY EASTERHOUSE WOOOOOooooOOOOOOooooo(I’ll stop that)
Finally, I helped the forestry commission and seven loch project set upup illuminations in Auchinlea park to get the local community out for a night walk. There were lanterns (which I helped design with St Benedict’s primary in Easterhouse), performers, spooky spiders, blood thirsty bats and the special coloured lights brought in. The public loved it; the chance to see this forest in a new light. I heard many were up for coming back again during the day. It was a long day but in the end it was worth it.
YOU HAVE REACHED THE EXIT OF YOUR MINDS BUG WALK
Right that is our mind bug walk finished. I hope you aren’t traumatised by the liberal use of WooooooOOOOooooOOOOoo. If you are not I thank you for reading and hope that some of the things I have done can inspire you to go out to see or help your local green space. I hope its encouraged you to look up some of these community groups or projects for further inspiration and work you could do yourself. Have fun!!