“If a mite that lives on a snail is called a snail mite…” says TV presenter and wildlife expert Nick Baker to a group of school children. “What do you call a mite that lives on a slug?”
The pupils at St Anne’s Catholic Primary School are hanging onto his every word, enthralled to find out not just about minibeasts, but even about the micro-beasts that live on minibeasts!
Nick was on a nationwide tour of inspirational outdoor learning projects which are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery – and stopped off in Coventry to see Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s work with schools.
His success in engaging pupils at St Anne’s was down to the intricate details about ecology and wildlife he could share with them. Slugs were no longer just slimy. And having seen close up and first-hand how a spider had spun her web and yet not got stuck to it herself, a creepy crawly became a clever engineer of lethal beauty. The garden at St Anne’s in no longer just a garden; it’s home to countless fascinating living things.
I’ve seen the same effect first hand on my own eight-year-old; we joined one of the trust’s Bat Walks during a summer evening in Bubbenhall Wood, where learning all about why bats are so brilliant transformed his view about woodlands. As he explains to anyone who will listen: “They’re not just trees, they’re home to these amazing little creatures!”
More recently we found a stunning Portuguese Man-of-War washed up on Chesil Beach in Dorset following Storm Brian. Within just five yards either side of it we also collected enough plastic from the pebbles to fill a carrier bag for the bin.
Appreciating the smaller pieces of the ecology jigsaw, enables children to understand the bigger picture of why our living landscapes need looking after. Today’s children – whether that’s mine or yours or the fabulous pupils of St Anne’s – will be tomorrow’s custodians of the planet’s special places. And if we can encourage them to love the little things then one day they’ll be helping to save the big things.
Paula Irish, Communications Officer