Blackbirds, house sparrows and robins are at the top of the checklist for tens of thousands of school children across the UK this week as the world’s biggest schools’ wildlife survey kicks off. The RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch – which takes place during the first half of the spring term (2 Jan – 23 Feb) – is a chance for children to put down their books and get outside to experience and learn about the nature that lives in their local community. The Birdwatch involves children spending an hour watching and counting the birds that visit their outdoor space, before sending the results to the RSPB.
A recent survey of 200 teachers and 1200 school children from around the UK revealed that 96% teachers believed it was important for children to experience nature at school, while 77% of pupils agreed. With close to a million school children taking part since its launch in 2002, the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect opportunity for schools to get outside, learn and make their first discoveries in nature.
Last year, 73,000 children and teachers took part counting more than 100,000 birds. For the ninth successive year the blackbird was the most common playground visitor with 88% of schools spotting one during their watch. Robins, house sparrows and woodpigeons all featured prominently in the results, and with over 70 difference species recorded, there is sure to be a few surprises in schools around the country.
Rebecca Kerfoot, RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch Co-ordinator, said: “The Big Schools Birdwatch is the chance for children to get a taste of the wild side where they live and go to school. It’s fun, easy and simple to set up, it works for all ages, and even if it’s a dull, rainy January day you can still gaze out of the classroom and see a flash of colour.
“Sadly, children are spending less time outside in nature, meaning they are missing out on the positive impact nature has on their education, physical health and emotional wellbeing. The Birdwatch is the perfect chance to experience nature first hand, make exciting discoveries and help provide scientists with valuable information.”
For the first time the RSPB has partnered with Cbeebies favourites Twirlywoos to provide exciting new activities and resources specifically tailored to Early Years, to help get their mini Birdwatches off to a flying start.
The Big Schools Birdwatch is a free activity and only takes an hour to complete. Teachers can pick any day during the first half of the spring term to take part, with the flexibility to run it as a one off or as the centre piece of a cross-curricular study, project work or a way for the children to improve their outdoor space.
To take part in the Birdwatch and help the next generation of children start their own wildlife adventure, visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch