November’s top tips for Biodiversity
There’s no such thing as bad weather; only the wrong clothing!
Don’t let the cooler weather put you off getting outside! Just make sure everyone wraps up in warm and waterproof layers, and continue on your journey to learn about the plants and animals in and around your school. Remember that exposure to the natural environment is proven to offer huge benefits to all of our health and well-being, and to children’s development too. Here are some of the ways that it has been scientifically proven* to be good for us all:
- increased physical health
- enhanced mental and spiritual health
- enhanced personal and social communication skills
- enhanced spiritual, sensory, and aesthetic awareness
- increased ability to assert personal control and increased sensitivity to one’s own well-being.
Furthermore outdoor play has been shown to have positive effects on physical development and that the mental health and wellbeing benefits produced by playing in natural settings appear to be long-term; they reveal themselves in the form of greater emotional stability in young adulthood**.
As more research is conducted worldwide, we are learning a great deal about the importance of fresh air, the outdoors, and time spent in nature. So do try to spend periods of class time outside as often as possible.
Sample Action 1 – An example of a Biodiversity ‘Awareness Raising’ activity
Tree Identification Activity – all ages: download at https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/activities/2015/09/leaf-id/. This sheet could be used as an extension relating to any of the following curricula areas:
- The Arts/Visual Arts/Art Craft and Design – Exploring the colours, textures and shapes of leaves in Autumn to Winter
- SESE/Biology/Science – relating to photosynthesis, loss of leaves, seasonality, temperate zones, habitats, ecology, plant adaptation, function/uses for fallen leaves etc.
- History/SESE/Environmental Social Studies – trees in Ireland; Explore why there are so few native forests left; Look at how trees influence Irish place names; Learn the Ogham Alphabet.
- Language – parts of a tree, tree names, place names, general landscape vocabulary in English, Irish, French, German etc
- SESE/Geography/Physical Education – Map reading: set up an orienteering trail, linking the different trees on a map of the school grounds
Sample Action 2 – Examples of making physical changes to your school grounds, in order to increase Biodiversity levels (the following actions are suitable for Winter-time)
- Feed the Birds: to support strong populations of local birds over the cold weather of the winter months, you can provide food for them. If you are unsure about what food and feeders to use, click here; this page offers super advice on all of your best options.
- Start work on bird nest-boxes – if you hope to attract birds to nest in your school grounds within the next year you will need to erect your nest-boxes by mid-winter; ideally before the Christmas holidays, but up until mid-January should be ok. It is important so that the birds have enough time to get used to the boxes being in place.
- Help Hedgehogs Hibernate: make leaf mounds with the fallen Autumn leaves or log piles to create the perfect hedgehog hibernacula!
- Plant trees and Native hedges: the winter is the time to plant trees, but be sure to have your plans and lists in place in advance. You will need to make decisions about what species are appropriate, what location in your school is optimal and what nurseries are nearby.
For more information, check out the Biodiversity materials in our Resources section.
* Health, Well-Being and Open Space, Literature Review by Nina Morris, OPENspace Research Centre, (2003).
** Wild Adventure Space for Young People: Literature Review – Survey of Findings September by Penny Travlou, OPENspace Research Centre (2006)