The ‘Connecting schools to nature in North-East England’ project has helped pupils and teachers from across the region engage and connect with nature on their doorstep.
About the project
Launched in January 2022, the ‘Connecting schools to nature in North-East England’ project worked with 72 schools and early-career ecologists across the North-East to help inspire both teachers and pupils to engage with the natural world and transform their school grounds into wildlife-friendly havens. The response from schools and volunteers was fantastic! We reached over 5,000 pupils across the mammals, invertebrates and birds modules, through a combination of outdoor workshops, teacher training events, and the delivery of our exciting new digital platform “BES Encounters”.
“This [project] has changed the way our children look after our environment. They are excited to learn and to know more about the natural world. The equipment has been amazing to use and has enhanced our daily teaching.”
The three modules were…
Module 1 | Mammals
To kick off the year, our partner schools participated in a ‘mammal challenge week’, using different equipment and resources to learn about the mammals living in and around their school grounds.
During class workshops, pupils set up camera traps and footprint tunnels to test their detective skills and work out which elusive mammal species were visiting their grounds. Schools also started their journey towards improving their local habitat, carrying out group litter picking exercises and learning about the ways in which litter is harmful to wildlife.
The mammals module also introduced teachers and pupils to the world of citizen science through the submission of camera trap findings to the MammalWeb project. Not only did this allow pupils to directly contribute towards real-time species data collection and play an active role in the projection of their local environment, but participation in citizen science is also shown to help develop a deeper sense of nature connection.
Module 2 | Insects
Equipped with sweep nets and beating sheets, pupils spent the summer hunting for bugs as part of Module 2, using magnifiers and insect pots to identify a whole host of fantastic species! Through these activities, pupils got to learn about how even the smallest of animals can make a difference and have a really important role in the wider ecosystem.
Alongside the workshops, online quizzes and activities, each pupil planted their own pollinator-friendly plants. Classes were encouraged to think about how this could benefit local insects and the wider environment. This module also saw our partner schools design their ideal green school, with both teachers and pupils submitting their designs and sharing these with the wider community.
Module 3 | Birds
Module 3 was all about our feathered friends and encouraging a new generation of ornithologists! To make the playground a bird watcher’s paradise, we supplied each school with a bird house, bird feeding station, ID guides and binoculars. Assisted by our team of fantastic project volunteers, pupils took part in spotting birds and making their own bird feeders! To further this learning and development, schools took part in the RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch.
This module also saw the launch and delivery of our Green Transformations funding bid, with schools applying for up to £400 to turn their green school designs into a reality. From ponds, waterproof clothing, wildflower meadows and outdoor classroom equipment; we’ve loved seeing how our partner schools have truly transformed their grounds into wildlife havens!
These are the goals we set out at the start of the project which have been successfully achieved thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of volunteers, teachers, pupils, our partners and everyone else involved.
We’re currently working on legacy plans for the project including sharing our resources and seeking further collaborative partners and funding to continue and expand the project. We’ll soon be recruiting several ‘regional champion’ schools from across the UK to carry forward the project and expand our geographical reach. With the release of our new Encounters platform with easy access to a wide-range of free nature and ecology resources, we will be able to support schools across the country to start their own nature connection journeys!
About our Funders
This project was funded by a £248,700 grant provided by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency – you can read more about our funders and the inspiration behind the project via our official announcement page.
Keep in touch
Following the success of the Connecting Schools to Nature project the BES has set up a new teacher’s network to support teachers wishing to engage with ecology in their schools. We are also recruting additional schools to benefit from the legacy projects and BES Encounters platform moving forward. You can read more about the new network here and sign up to the mailing list here.
If you would like to make a general enquiry, please get in touch via email@example.com for more information.
Like what we stand for?
Support our mission and help develop the next generation of ecologists by donating to the British Ecological Society.