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Time for a new adventure!

Hi folks, time for a quick update!

Sorry I haven’t posted for such a long time, I’ve been head deep in coursework. However I have now finished my degree and am pleased to announce that I am now a qualified primary school teacher and will be graduating with a 2:1!

So onto the next adventure! In a week my partner, Alex, and I will be moving to Australia! I am very much hoping to continue my journey into environmental education whilst away, and therefore once working will be again updating this on a far more regular basis.

How fascinating it will be to learn about a whole new range of animals, environments, conservation and education. If I find work within these areas whilst there it really will be a dream come true.

So this is where I ask for your advice and help. I will be looking for experiences, and hopefully work pretty much straight away. Therefore if anyone could recommend places to visit with top notch experiences and educational facilities, so I can learn lots while I travel, that would be fantastic! Or if you work in the environmental education sector I would really appreciate advice on how best to find work.

We begin our journey in Cairns on the 2nd of July. I really do hope to meet and learn from some fantastic environmental educators on the year long trip and am willing to work and travel anywhere. So if you have enjoyed my reviews of environmental educational facilities and/or like my lessons and resources, please do get in touch!!

Much love,
A very excited Poppy  x

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Friends for Sharks

Yesterday I learnt lots of amazing things about sharks! For instance did you know that there are 465 species of shark and have up to 40000 teeth in their lifetime?! I learnt that Great Whites grow up to 6m long, weigh up to 2 tonnes, live up to 70 years and can reach speeds of 20mph! Why did I learn these lovely little facts about sharks? I attended an open lecture by a marine conservation cause called ‘Friends for Sharks’. This cause was dreamt up and is run by shark experts and enthusiasts Kathryn Hodgson and Nick Curzon. Both have spent large amounts of time studying and working with sharks and decided that they would like to travel spreading word about these fascinating and misjudged creatures. In their talks they not only give you lots of interesting facts about sharks, Great Whites in particular, but they also spread the word about the plight of sharks and how you can help! They explained how sharks are threatened in several ways, for example: incorrect and sensationalist media, shark fin soup and poaching. All in all sharks are threatened by us! Kathryn and Nick told us some horrendous and quite upsetting statistics about the effect we are having on sharks. Shockingly 11400 sharks are killed per hour! Only 3000 great whites are left in the world, at the most, and they could go extinct in our life time! What can we do to help stop this? EDUCATION. And that’s exactly what Kathryn and Nick are doing with Freinds for Sharks, in an exciting, interesting, and passionate way! They are currently taking their talk on a world tour, the flights for which they are paying for out of their own pockets! So have a look on their website and see if their world tour is coming anywhere near you! If you work somewhere that could benefit from their talks I highly recommend you get in touch as this talk will benefit people of all ages, with a little or a lot of marine knowledge. Or if you are unable to visit a talk but want to help them along please make a donation to them! This will go towards educational resources, essential tour costs (but not flights as previously mentioned) and to support their chosen charities; Project Aware and the Shark Trust. You can get all this info and more at their website: http://www.friendsforsharks.com On top of all this I was also quite personally touched by this talk, persuaded not to ever give up on my dream! Kathryn has been on a long and what seems like a difficult road to get her to the point of starting Friends for Sharks. Things like people telling her to get a ‘normal’ job and struggling through injury. Yet here she is, spreading the word about her passion in life and helping to save these magnificent creatures. She’s even written a book about her journey, which I will definitely be reading! You can find it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Damage-adventure-courage-survival-ebook/dp/B00R2ZF14Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423149350&sr=8-1&keywords=kathryn+hodgson She promised me there would be a paper back soon 😉 I wish Friends for Sharks all the luck in the world for their tour! A truly inspiring venture. 🙂

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Posters to Help Protect Primates.

In the last few weeks of Monkeying Around we looked at the primate pet trade. Now this is arguably the hardest topic I wanted to teach in the 8 weeks of the club and would have to go about it carefully so as to inspire the children rather than upset them.

I looked online and found some great teaching resources from Wild Futures in Cornwall. This gave me some really good info and statistics which I was then able to turn into a PowerPoint full of interesting info suitable for my Year 6s. They learnt all about the current laws for keeping a primate and what this tends to actually mean in reality: What they are fed, the cages they are kept in, the injuries that can cause and what can happen to them when they don’t ‘behave’ and the illegal pet trade taking monkeys from the wild. The children then watched the video about Joey, a rescued capuchin monkey at Wild Futures and were very much moved by his story.

(Wild futures: http://www.wildfutures.org/)

We had a big discussion about whether primates should be kept as pets. The children came to a conclusion that most people cannot keep primates as pets as they do not understand their needs. The children think that UK laws need to be tightened to stop just anyone owning a primate as a pet and to stop primates being trafficked from the wild. They also decided that they would like to help educate as to what it’s really like to have a monkey as a pet…

So they made some posters to do just that!

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The posters have information about the reality of keeping a monkey, discuss how they feel about it and talk about Joey the Capuchin as an example.

I was sad that this was the last thing I would be teaching the children but was also really proud about how enthusiastic the children had become on the subject of primate conservation!

One of girls had done a whole piece of descriptive writing about a macaque during the classes big write. Two more girls surprised me with books they had made in their own time, full of facts about different animals, including notes telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the club!

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Tad emotional but job well done I feel!

On another note. This will probably be my last post for a long time as I am back to university for my last 6 months of study and to ensure all concentration is on my essays and passing, I will be slowing the voluntary/ part time work right down. However my other half and I have an exciting move planned in June…to Australia! I am very much hoping to carry on this environmental education journey out there. So if anyone has any contacts out there in this field of work, please do send me a message!

Thanks 🙂

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Save the Macaque!

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I may have mentioned previously, yanno maybe once or twice, that my favourite animal in the world is a Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

So for the last couple of weeks, conservation club have been learning all about these majestic little critters. 😀

The year 6s researched the monkeys looking at their behaviour, habitat and diet, leading to them also falling very much in love with the mohawked characters! The children also looked at why they are so critically endangered and what people in Sulawesi are doing to help. So this clearly included the fantastic charity, who I am in upmost support of, Selamatkan Yaki. ( http://selamatkanyaki.com/ )

The children learnt about how education is so important for the children in Sulawesi and that Selamatkan Yaki teach them all about their local monkeys! They were so inspired by the work that of course, they wanted to help! So we decided that we could make an education video, to help teach others about the Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

After some more research and working very hard on an effective script, this is what they came up with…

(Please bare in mind the children only had 2 half hour sessions to make this video)

The children have been very brave in making this video, so any feedback for them would be very much appreciated. Thank you 🙂

Save the Macaque!

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Palm Oil Activists!

Palm oil is a vegetable oil which is found in 75% of our weekly shop; from bread to shampoo. It is a natural ingredient, which is cheap and quick to grow, so understandably companies love the stuff! However it is having an absolutely detrimental effect on the environment. The palm tree from which the oil is produced was originally found in Africa but companies discovered it also grows very well in Asia’s rainforests. Therefore, in Indonesia in particular, the huge growth in demand for palm oil is now one of the main causes of deforestation. Huge areas of forest are cut or burnt down to be replaced with row upon row of the palm tree, destroying areas rich biodiversity.

Therefore this industry is exactly what Monkeying Around, my year 6 conservation club, have been learning about for the last couple of weeks.

Firstly we talked about what palm oil was. So we looked it up and found out all about the oils history and where it came from. Once they were clued up on the basics I gave them a challenge! I had brought in lots of items that children might see in their weekly shop: bread, shampoo, biscuits, soap, chocolate etc. I then asked the children to try and sort the objects into two piles; items that they think that contain palm oil and items that they think don’t contain palm oil. This activity has a varied result with every group of children using it, but these children divided the items quite clearly to say that the more cosmetic items did contain palm oil, whereas the food did not. How shocked they were when I revealed that every single item contained palm oil!

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Next we began to look at the damaging environmental effects of palm oil. I explained to them the nature of the rich biodiversity of rainforests; full of numerous animal and plant species, and then what might happen when you remove this range of plant species and replace it with one repeated over and over. They quickly understood that this would mean that not as many animals would be able to survive in that area. We focussed on Orang-utans in particular, looking at how they rely on the forest to survive.

To reinforce the idea of how deforestation effects the wildlife in a rainforest, I used an activity shown to me by a very knowledgeable education officer from Monkey World, Rebecca Short (http://whobrokewho.wordpress.com/).

First we laid out a large bed sheet on the ground, representing a rainforest. I then picked 5 children to be orang-utans and stand somewhere on the rainforest (sheet), nicely spread out. Next I picked some children to be loggers and asked them to stand around the edge of the rainforest. Finally I asked the remaining children to tell me some of the things that they found out had palm oil in, each time they said an item, the loggers folded in a bit of a sheet to represent planting the palm trees to make that product. The area of the sheet soon began to get small, with my 5 orang-utans getting closer and closer together. They started saying things like “but I don’t have room to move”, “I’m going to have to step off of the rainforest”, “we can’t all fit in this tiny space”. Suddenly the children were very quiet, it was very clear that a fun game had turned into a realisation of what was really happening to wildlife out in Indonesia.

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So naturally, the children wanted to help!

The Rainforest Foundation UK have designed a fantastic database, ‘Appetite for Destruction’, which has different product categories such as biscuits, bread, chocolate, hair care and makeup. These categories then list companies that produce them in a traffic light system: Green for companies who use no or transparently sustainable palm oil, Red for companies who use great amounts of non-sustainable palm oil and orange for everywhere in-between. I asked the children to have a look at the database to see if they can spot companies who always seem to find themselves in the red sections of each category. The children very quickly spotted Asda as being a repeat offender.

I quickly explained to them that this does not require them to stop shopping at Asda altogether… as I could just imagine the complaints from parents when their children tell them they have to change all their shopping habits! Instead I suggested that we write to the CEO, Mr Andy Clarke, explaining why we are worried about Asda’s use of palm oil and whether they have any plans to switch to more sustainable ingredients.

Liking this idea the children went away and wrote some fantastic letters (luckily they had been studying persuasive writing the week before!), which I have now sent away to the Asda head office. Fingers crossed we get a response!

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When it comes to palm oil I always explain that it is impossible to expect people to completely change their weekly shop to not include palm oil, shopping would take hours! Although it is easy to just swap one or two things you would normally get to a similar product which doesn’t use palm oil. The Rainforest Foundation UK’s database makes this even easier to do; just swap a red to a green, or even an orange is better!

If you do chose to swap an item, like the children, why not write a letter to the company explaining why you have stopped buying their product? Companies will not stop using a product unless they know consumers are unhappy about it!

After all, the customer is always right!

 

Here is the link the Rainforest Foundation UK’s palm oil product database:

http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/rainforest-foundation-uk-publications/appetite-for-destruction-palm-oil-guide/

As always, please feel free to use these lesson/ activity ideas for yourself. But if you do, please let me know how it goes! Feedback is always greatly appreciated. 🙂

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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!

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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. 🙂