Autumn/Winter review 2016

We made a good start to the new school year with 405 children visiting the centre in the autumn term. Visits were made by mainly upper key stage 2 classes with year 4 studying habitats, year 5 studying life cycles and year 6 studying interdependence, adaptation and water quality.
We also had two year 3 groups opting for our very successful Rocks and Soils course. This half-day hands-on course provides the children with the opportunity to identify and handle a range of real rock samples from all the major rock types. This is followed by a chance to see and handle real fossils such as a trilobite fossil dating back to 550 million years old! Out on the reserve pupils also discover how soil is made and witness a volcano experiment. In 2017 we will be adding an afternoon option of building materials exploring building materials through the ages and conducting experiments in tower building.
At the beginning of the term we hosted a very successful inset training session for thirty teachers exploring how the school’s outdoor environment can be used to enhance teaching. The session took place at the centre after school and lasted for one and a half hours. The event explored the range of topics that can be taught outdoors and how the outdoors can be brought back in to the classroom. Topics and curriculum links for outdoor work were covered, including science, maths, English, geography and numeracy and literacy. The importance of outdoor experiences for children was emphasised citing recent research into the role the school can play in encouraging children and their families to have more opportunities to experience nature. The teachers enjoyed a walk round the nature reserve and an opportunity to explore minibeast habitats including life in a log pile, sweep netting for grasshoppers in the meadow and tree bashing for weevils in the oak tree and a good look at some of the amazing creatures living in our ponds. Some of the teachers remembered the joy of finding minibeasts as children and found that it was still just as pleasurable. Even those who were a bit squeamish about bugs and beasties found it fascinating. Please contact us if you are interested in organising a training event for your teachers.
Star gazing
In November, we delivered our first Star gazing experience to a Brownie group. This was a great success. The night sky obliged us by being totally clear and the moon was big and bright and almost full. The children were able to see some of the moon’s features using binoculars, which they particularly enjoyed, and we were able to identify some of the constellations such as the Plough and Cassiopeia. They all brought torches and really enjoyed finding our way in the dark. Back at the centre they found out about the phases of the moon and talked about the naming of the constellations.