Worlds biggest wildlife survey will need childrens help

The biggest ever survey of wildlife amongst schools in the UK has now started. Thousands of schoolchildren will be taking part, watching and waiting excitedly to see which creatures and birds stray into their playgrounds. Classrooms are to be turned into hides, binoculars will be fixed firmly to eager eyes and noses pressed against windows, and all in the name of science.

The annual Big Schools Birdwatch from the RSPB is taking place from 16-30 January, and the survey is encouraging both teachers and children to look for, and count, the different birds that are sharing their environment. A record breaking number participated in 2011, with almost 3000 being involved, and 88,500 teachers and children.

Wildlife is an unbeatable teaching resource. Colourful, attractive and abundant it can enthuse and inspire children – connecting them with the nature that lives alongside them everyday.

Simple to set up, fun for children to do and offering a host of curriculum linked learning opportunities across all age ranges – Big Schools’ Birdwatch is something every school should participate in [note 3]

Some schools make the activity the centrepiece of a whole week devoted to learning about wild birds. Other schools hold birdwatch breakfasts and after school wildlife clubs.

Faye Mackender, RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch project manager, said: “This activity provides an opportunity for thousands of children to join in and discover the wildlife within their local environment. However teachers want to do it, and wherever the school is located, it’s easy to encourage some life and colour to winter classroom windows with the Big Schools’ Birdwatch.”

Experiencing nature first hand is a vital part of a child’s education, and offers many varied benefits to them, not least developing a sense of wonder and curiosity for the world around them. [note 4]

Faye added: “All you need to do is watch and count the birds in your school grounds for one hour, then submit your results to the RSPB, detailing what you see. Whether you see several exotic species or just a few of the commonest birds, it doesn’t matter – all sightings are useful to us!

We put together the data from the schools about the birds that they see. We then create an overview of which birds are making the most of school grounds across the UK.”

The survey helps to paint a picture of how our birds are faring. Since its launch in 2002, more than 70 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from house sparrows to kestrels and even pheasants. [note 5]

No birdwatching expertise is necessary for teachers, helpers or children and the RSPB has produced a free schools pack containing everything a teacher will need. The emphasis is on having fun and joining in. The pack includes guidance notes, a full colour bird identification poster, counting charts and survey form.

For further information about Big Schools’ Birdwatch, and to register for a free teachers pack, visit the RSPB website or ring 0300 456 8340 (calls charged at standard rate). The hotline number will be operational until 30 January 2012.