50 things are just the start
Outdoor Education Officer and Gardener, Antony, Torpoint, Cornwall
I’ve been hooked on the great outdoors since a child. I think getting out into nature and making things as a team is transformative. Outdoors is the natural place for children.
I caught the bug for the great outdoors as a child in the 60s. I’d won a prize for 100% attendance at school, a book called ‘A Day Out at the Farm’, filled with colourful pictures of flowers. I was hooked. I shouldn’t admit it, but my attendance never quite hit 100% again.
Growing up in a flat, I didn’t have a garden. My school was on the edge of town and as a class we’d walk to the local park where we were allowed to run free, climbing trees (No.1), messing about in streams, and discovering that all sorts of amazing insects could be found under stones (No.31).
In summer, magpies would fly into the classroom to steal the spare silver nibs on our desks. They were so bold. One was so close, I could see it blink.
Wait for the wow
That must be why I was became a gardener. Not that I do much gardening now. Years ago, we had the odd school visit and I’d show them around. I loved it, the number of educational visits at Antony grew, and now I’m the Outdoor Education Officer.
I try to get the best possible equipment for our education rooms, like digital microscopes, entomologist lenses and professional butterfly nets. There’s no point trying to gain a child’s interest with poor equipment.
We look at things like jumping spiders under the digital microscopes. I always know when things come into focus, I just wait for the ‘wow’. Then we print the pictures on A4 sheets, the children can’t believe it.
Kids of all ages love it
And I do mean all ages. We even have the University of the Third Age visit – one chap, in his 80s, had a fantastic time pond dipping. He said he hadn’t done it since he was 10.
Typically though, children are aged from two to early teens. We get them doing all sorts, hunting for bugs (No.31), building dens (No.4), even catching and identifying butterflies (which we let go) for the Butterfly Conservation.
We’ve a massive walnut tree with long arching branches the pupils can climb (No.1). It’s so big, a whole class of 30 can sit in its branches!
If you’re having fun, you’re learning
We get the children to stand in a line on the raised area at the top of the lawn. We tell them all about swallows and how they migrate from Africa. Then they get to become swallows, running and swooping down across the lawn.
It’s the natural place for children to be
One of the things l love about what I do now is seeing the joy the children, parents and grandparents get from being involved with nature.
I give the children the 50 things booklets when they leave, it encourages them to expand on their experience, to get out and about for themselves.
I believe all children should get the opportunity to be outside, they’re so inquisitive and questioning, it’s the natural place for them to be.