1

Woodland Wonderers

As we get older we forget the joys of just being able to experience an environment, big or small, and just explore. The answer to most questions can be presented far too easily with a lazy click of a mouse. Therefore it is essential that even in this modern, technology and concrete filled world that we let children immerse and discover.

In light of this I decided to use a lesson on ‘materials and their properties’, with my 30 year 1s, as a perfect opportunity to let the children explore their environment and ‘work scientifically’.
This lesson relied heavily on 2 resources: 1. egg boxes 2. whatever mother nature provides in the local field/wood/park. After an introduction on materials and their properties; how do our clothes feel? Etc., children were given an egg box in chosen mixed ability pairs. In each section of this egg box was a label of a different material property, using language they will have used in the intro.  E.g. Soft, hard, rough, smooth and spikey!
I then took the children to the school’s small tree covered area, asked them to find things to go in the different sections and just let them go and explore!

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The children were completely engaged! So much so that when one or two of them slipped down the bank you did not hear the crying that you would expect, instead they just got up, dusted the mud off, and carried on. The variety of things that the children found amazed me. Smooth chestnuts, their spikey shells, soft flowers, hard wood, grass, stones, moss and much more.

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Once back in the classroom this variety of materials and the children’s enthusiasm made for a fascinating discussion. We were able to ask why? Why is the wood hard? Why does the flower need to be soft? Why is the chestnut’s shell spikey?

I can honestly say I think this is one of my favourite lessons I have ever taught. The next day I taught it to the other year 1 class who seemed to enjoy it just as much.

Working in a non classroom environment allows you to see your children in a completely different light and could just be the moment where the one child who cant stand a pencil and paper, absolutely blossoms.

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2

New challenges mean new adventures…

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I strongly believe life is an adventure. If you do not see every new event as an adventure it can definitely drag you down. This is because all adventures have challenges, high points, low points, emotional moments and can be completely exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

Now if this doesn’t describe the motions of teaching then I don’t know what does. So yes, just started my final school placement, meaning the start of another adventure!

I have been incredibly lucky with my placement and have a lovely year 1 class with very supportive teachers. I have also already had the chance to be involved in and teach education outside the classroom.

So here’s what’s happened in terms of outdoor education so far…

A coach journey back in time…

Last week I got to go on a school trip! Those amazing days where you get to really know the children but seem to spend 95% of your time counting heads. This particular school trip was to inspire their topic of Castles and Dragons, so fittingly it was a trip to a castle!!

Powderham Castle is an incredibly beautiful castle in Devon surrounded by breath-taking grounds filled with plants and wildlife such as deer! There were certainly lots of ‘ooo’s and ‘aahhh’s on the wander up to the grand castle front.

The first activity for the children was quite fittingly, a tour around the castle itself. Our tour guide was a very knowledgeable but older gentleman and I have to be perfectly honest it crossed my mind as to whether he would be able to keep the attention of our rather excitable rabble of 5 year olds. He was very friendly and the children found him very interesting, as did the adults! He was also very aware of their age so did not give too much information and showed them exciting features like amazing secret doors! What the children maybe did not take in was the stunning quality of the building. The outside is grand, but the interior blows your breath away!

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Next onto an exciting tractor ride to an amazing playground which is just like the castle, turrets and all! The children were able to run around pretending they were knights, princesses and dragons; very much drawing on what they had seen inside the castle. I think every game involved a secret door! This play allowed them to mentally live the castle life!

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Finally Powderham Castle also has a very impressive selection of animals; from donkeys, to geese, to tortoise! This allowed the children to gain hands on experience with new, unknown animals, to learn about how to treat animals and what well looked after animals look like. It also got them talking about which species of animals may have always been at the castle and why.

It was such a worthwhile trip for the children and perfectly demonstrated how taking children outside the classroom can stimulate their minds, allowing them to reach their highest potential back with work back in class. In this case the trip produced some wonderful key words for a big write.

 

Encouraging excitement for reading with LA boys…

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Over the next week I am working with a LA group on the topic of labels and captions. These 4 boys are incredibly kind hearted and sweet natured, but are very reluctant and struggling readers. I thought this group work would be a brilliant opportunity to see if outdoor education could help combat their reluctance to read.

The learning objective of the first session I taught them was ‘to be able to, with assistance, sound talk simple labels and stick them to the correct object’.
I began by taking the boys out onto the school field and let them have a quick run around the place. I find this is really helpful as it gets the excitement of being outside and just wanting to play out of their system.
Next I showed the boys a large (half a4) piece of paper with my name on it. I asked them what this said, they are used to seeing my name in the classroom so new it was my name. I then stuck this paper on my shirt. They asked why I was doing that, amongst giggles, and I explained that it was my label as it explained who I was. I then showed them 4 other labels with their names on. They then found their name by recognising the letters and sound talking them, once found I stuck their names on their jumpers.
Next I showed them a label with the word ‘tree’ on it. We sound talked the word together and I asked them where this might go? They all shouted on the tree! Fantastic! Finally I put them in pairs and gave them 5 simple labels each and they had a race to see which team could stick their labels on the right objects first. However, they were not allowed to take the label unless they have sound talked the word to me first.

This sense of competition encouraged the boys to try really really hard to recognise letters and sound talk their words, with clear attempts at blending. What was incredibly rewarding for myself was seeing the joy they were having in doing so! The learning objective was achieved and it is a session that I will certainly use again.

Please feel free to give this session a go! But as always if you do, please let me know how it goes!

 

More school updates to come, including my first conservation club next week!

Here’s to adventure! 🙂

2

Tall Tails

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You may have recently seen that the natural history channel, Eden, have released a competition for amateur wildlife enthusiasts like myself to upload a minute long natural history film of their own. Obviously an opportunity far too good to miss!

So after a bit of brain racking I managed to rope in my little sister, who has her own vlog (she’s a clever and entertaining little bean, search ‘kelseydoes’ on YouTube), and the lemur keeper to help me out. So after work one day we filmed with some very mischievous lemurs and this is what we cam up with…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv_qzA1_wKM

If you would like to have a gander please let me know what you think! All feedback would be fantastic; good and bad! Of course, if your friend happens to work in the natural history television industry… feel free to pass it on!

In other news, it was my last day working at the zoo today 😦

I have had an absolutely fantastic summer, learnt so much, been given some fantastic opportunities and will of course miss seeing beautiful animals every single day!

My next adventure is my 4th and final teaching placement. I start Monday and will be at the new school, with year 1, until Christmas. I am very much hoping to use lots of outdoor education lessons during this placement and, if allowed, run a conservation club for year 5 and 6.

Therefore at the end of each week I will post any outdoor or environmentally based lessons I teach, letting you know how they went…whether it be great or terrible!

Wish me luck 🙂

3

Always meet your Idols…

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This week I had the honour of meeting arguably the most influential man in the natural history industry, Sir David Attenborough!

Sir David was visiting Paignton Zoo to film our Bornean Orang-utan Mali and her baby Tatau for a new documentary about tool using animals. The zoo was chosen for it’s natural like enclosure that our animals our kept in; a very rewarding moment for the keepers!

After his day of filming staff were invited to come and meet him! It was incredible to see so many members of staff, of all different ages, all inspired by the same man. I think it is safe to say that there is no other person who has inspired so many different generations of animal lovers.

We were taken in our departments to have our photo taken and any memorabilia signed. It must have been a long day for anyone, let alone if you are 88 years old! Yet Sir David seemed genuinely happy to sit and chat to us all signing countless amounts of books and dvds. He was in his classic linen suit light blue shirt looking very well and sounding just as serene as when on our screens.

It’s safe to say that I became rather emotional and have been teased about this ever since! But hey ho, it’s not everyday you meet your hero and I cry at a good episode of Dancing on Ice!

So who ever said never meet your idols need to meet Sir David Attenborough! A day I will never forget and will always treasure.

Just Steve Backshall and Bill Bailey to go…

1

Busy as a Bee!

The last few weeks have been chock-a-block! Full of bug eating, big bangs and bottom wiggling!

I have been incredibly busy with work over the past few weeks but during that time I have been involved in some very exciting educational activities. Firstly, back in July, was the South West Big Bang Fair, held at Exeter University. This event is all about getting children into science! Children from lots of different secondary schools had brought along their science projects to be judged, and some of the ideas were just genius; from particle physics to sustainable building. The rest of the hall was full of scientific organisations with activities aiming to get children into science.
This is where we came in; myself, a presenter from living coasts and 4 Zoo interns went along to show children the wide range of fascinating Zoo careers they could become involved in. Our activities were mainly vet related and included ‘Guess the animal X-ray’, learning how to resuscitate a dog, and practicing cheetah darting skills. We also had lots of animal artefacts to look at and a really interesting sustainable fishing game. We were really pleased with how popular our activities were. By the end of the day we had spoken to around 400 students and all our career booklets had gone! Hopefully we inspired some future keepers, vets, teachers and researchers!

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Next up was the Exeter Summer Dine event. This was a marketing event and involved local attractions and restaurants visiting Exeter town centre to advertise their business, but of course our stall had an environmental twist!
This twist was our bug eating challenge. On the menu for brave shoppers that day were meal worms, crickets and locus! The reason behind this grim sounding challenge is a serious environmental message. As Earth’s population continues to grow, agricultural land continues to expand, destroying habitats as it does so and soon enough we are going to run out of room. Therefore we need to find a sustainable food source that can feed this massive population without causing more damage to our environment. Insects like these really seem to fit that bill; plus they have no calories and are full of protein! 80% of the worlds population already eat insects on a regular basis, only us Europeans are grossed out by the concept. Therefore my aim was to help people get over the fear of eating an insect. My personal favourite is the locus. 😛
Overall the day went very well. Lots of people were really interested and brave, especially young children. However on this occasion I was absolutely shocked at the rudeness of some members of the general public; no thank you is a perfectly suitable answer. The bug eating challenge will always be one of my favourite activities, every reaction is different!

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Finally, over the last few weeks I have been teaching!!! 😀
One of the Zoos education officers sadly left us recently meaning that until the position was filled, formal Zoo teaching sessions would need to be covered. I was so flattered when I was asked to do some of them!
Even though I have taught lessons all day on placement, my first session for the zoo was particularly nerve racking. I think this is because this was my chance; my chance to show I can teach! I read through the session plan over and over and before I new it the children were there ready. The lesson went really well and I loved every single minute of it and was buzzing for the rest of the day!
I have now taught lessons to children from year 1-6 about tropical rainforests, animals around the world, baby animals and will be teaching about African animals next week. My favourite part of any session so far is when talking about peacocks. I get the boys to all stand up holding peacock feathers and to do their best peacock bottom wiggle dance to the girls! The girls are never very impressed but it always gets them giggling. 🙂
These few sessions have been such a fantastic opportunity for me. Firstly they confirmed that this really is what I want to do and I will continue working hard to get there. Secondly I have been given positive for my lessons so far by the class teachers; which means my hard work has not been for nothing, I can do this!

I will be sad when I teach my last session next week. But the last few weeks have definitely continued to motivate me to keep working hard, keep trying to improve what I do, and things might just fall into place!

3

Wild Futures

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After my latest post describing Monkey World and it’s educational work I was contacted by Paul Reynolds, the Education Officer and Keeper at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. He wrote to me to ask if I would like to visit the Monkey Sanctuary and meet him to learn about the Monkey Sanctuary and the education programme that he runs. Of course I jumped at this chance!

I learnt so much about the Wild Futures charity and it is amazing what such a seemingly small charity can do. The truth is Wild Futures is not a small charity at all, they have huge influence in the primate conservation world. Firstly, what many people may not realise is that Wild Futures was created before Monkey World and both helped and advised Monkey World in the creation of their enclosures. They have also been a leading the way in Woolly Monkey husbandry, and were the first ever captive establishment to successfully breed them. (Due to being a sanctuary, Wild Future no longer breed their Woolly Monkeys)

At the moment Wild Futures are concentrating their influences onto parliament and the current exotic pet laws. Their campaign ‘Justice for Joey’ calls for the Government to make it illegal for primates to be sold and kept as pets in the UK. The campaign is based on the story of Joey the Capuchin monkey; who was kept by his owner in a tiny inside cage, causing him to become disabled. This is such a worthwhile campaign, as unfortunately Joey’s story happens far too often! Wild Futures influence and the campaigns importance is demonstrated perfectly in the fact that Stephen Fry has jumped on board and has appeared in the campaigns promotional video.
Here is a link for the Justice for Joey campaign:
http://www.wildfutures.org/justiceforjoey/

Education at Wild Futures comes in many different forms. The facilities at the Monkey Sanctuary are clearly old and could do with a re vamp but these things need money and being a charity the money first and foremost goes on the animals. Importantly thought, the content in the educational areas is fantastic! There is a room for younger children full of really exciting activities; from colouring to writing primate poems! It is a fantastic space for children to learn to love primates!

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There is also a very informative ‘lecture’ type room which includes videos, props and signs showing exactly why it is so cruel to keep a primate as a pet, and how Wild Futures rehabilitates these monkeys successfully. Even though shock tactic is used in this room it is really effective and detailed. I learnt so much, for instance I did not know that some vets recommend putting monkeys on leads! This room also shows the vast amount of conservation that Wild Futures are involved in and contribute to.

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On top of this there is a bat watching station, a room all about discovering local wild life and a fantastic display discussing the dangers of animal encounters when abroad.

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What I think is most impressive about the education is the person who is running it! It is clear that Paul really cares about encouraging children to see the dangers of the pet trade and actually, to just share his love of primates. He is a great force in this sanctuary, filling the site with brilliant ideas and info and connecting the sanctuary to lots of different primate charities. Being the only education officer at Wild Futures Paul is able to become involved in all sorts of events and school visits; leaving himself and Wild Futures with lots of fingers in lots of pies!

Finally the cute bit! The animals! The Monkey Sanctuary has rescued Woolly Monkeys, Capuchins and Barbary Macaques. I was lucky enough to see the big but beautiful woollys eat their morning monkey cake!

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Saw the famous and wonderful Joey. Fell in love with this big boy.

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And saw yet another species of marvelous macaques! Macaques are still, with out any question of a doubt my favourite primate species. Like the Sulawesis and the Stump tails the faces of the Barbarys were full of emotion and intelligence! One thing I was not expecting though was the size of these macaques! I don’t know whether all their fluff makes their size misleading but they were big old boys.

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Although this maybe wouldn’t be the ideal family day out for some people; as some may want to see more than 3 species of monkey and maybe not want to climb that many hills. I hope people bare in mind the fantastic work that is going on here and take the opportunity to educate themselves and children about primates and their welfare, by having a read of the signs, or a listen to the many volunteers that are more than happy to chat.

To Paul and Wild Futures, thank you for a fascinating day! My Justice for Joey letter will be off to my local MP very soon!

5

Monkeying Around!

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Last Monday I was able to do something I’d been desperate to do for a very long time…visit Monkey World! Excited as a child in a sweet shop doesn’t quite cover it!

Due to being zoo staff we were kindly given a tour around the park by Rebecca, one of the education officers. Firstly she spoke to us about the animals and the work which Monkey World carry out. I cannot state how important this work is, Monkey World save so many apes, monkeys and prosimians from lives spent in terrible conditions. Next we spoke about the work of Monkey World in schools and general education. As a lot of the animals at Monkey World were rescued from the pet trade it is not surprising that this is the main subject of their teaching. Even though I usually say that children do not need to be bombarded with negatives as long as a love of nature is provided; the way that Monkey World teach about the horrors of the pet trade sounds like a very touching and moving experience. Children are shown cages that are about the size of which a monkey is usually kept in in a lab. The children are asked to climb into the cage and explain how they’d feel if they had to live in it. Empathy is a powerful tool in this exercise and allows the children to see the monkeys as animals with personality and feelings like themselves, rather than just inanimate objects. This activity could be powerful in changing children’s attitudes to all animals and I was reassured that there are more fun and light hearted games used with younger children! I would love to see one of these lessons taught and can only imagine what a special day it is for children to get a visit from Monkey World!

After the tour we spent hours wandering around the park, which was a lot larger than I ever imagined it could be! The range of primates was fantastic and the enclosures so beautifully designed. I saw chimps for the first time and really enjoyed watching their intelligent minds figure out the best way to eat their ice lollies!

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We met some incredibly friendly gibbons who insisted on coming to say hello! I will always say that the sound of a gibbon is the most beautiful noise in the world!

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The baby orang-utans were beautiful, joyful, funny and so intriguing! We were lucky enough to stare into their beautiful eyes when one of them seemed to take a particular liking to my friend Holly’s bag!

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Saved the best till last! The stump tailed macaques! I’ve already announced my love for macaques and this lot are just so ugly that they’re adorable.

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I had an absolutely fantastic day at Monkey World, in fact I really did not want to leave! My only bug bare is that it is called monkey world, not primate world…but that’s just a silly pet hate!

A wonderful day out for an even more wonderful cause. 🙂