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.

The Make a Difference Weekend: 1st, 2nd October 2016

Never was an activity so appropriately titled – we really did make a difference that weekend!
At 10 o’clock on Saturday morning, there was a weedy central area in the garden behind the new Environment Centre, a huge pile of steaming compost in the service yard, and 50 rolls of turf on a pallet. Also, in the area between the car park and the Centre there were two beds filled with weeds. See below!

digging the centre bed

Saturday morning at the centre bed

digging the side beds

Saturday morning by the side beds

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July/August National Citizens Service challenge – young people get claggy in the clay

yellow aspen leaves close up

This summer, two groups of young people age 15 and 16 from the National Citizens Service volunteered to carry out conservation projects on the nature reserve. This was a great opportunity to develop new projects which we had been unable to carry out due to the huge amount of work needed to get our new garden into shape. A total of 25 young people attended the two events.

The first group built a new auditory trail through the Whispering wood and the second group built a reptile and amphibian hibernaculum in our new garden to provide safe hibernating habitat. Continue reading

A new beginning!

Open Day 3rd July 2016
We have been in our new Centre for 2 months and celebrated with an Open Day for neighbours, members and supporters.  The day was a great success with around 170 people through the doors.  A  variety of activities took place: following a nature trail, butterfly craft, sowing seeds (donated by Kew), investigating pond life.  There was a huge selection of delicious cakes and a wonderful vista through the doors onto the garden and the reserve.  The feedbackwas overwhelmingly ‘excellent’  with lots of visitors commenting on the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

butterfly1 nature_trail pond_life1 pond_life2

Centre OpeningAprThe E-Centre Opening 9th April 2016  The Centre was formally opened by Phil and Janet Hulme of the Hadley Trust. Trustees, volunteers and friends of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and Barnet Environment Centre, together with local residents and invited guests, attended to celebrate the future use of the building by both charities. The Friends of Barnet Environment Centre organised a self-guided walk around the nature reserve, a demonstration of pond-life and a “show and tell” of interesting wildlife objects. Read more on the Barnet Society’s website.

MADD12thApr16Make a Difference Day 12th March 2016: Mud field to wildlife garden. This “Make a Difference Day” was one of many sessions to transform the area immediately behind the Centre to make this into a garden to be enjoyed by school children, the families supported by Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and other visitors. Volunteers from our charity and from Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice worked to scrub up brambles and undergrowth. Over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd April we hired a digger and landscaped the garden and on the 4th we managed to prepare the ground and lay the turf that Noah’s Ark had been given by Thompsons of Enfield in an area next to the decking. The garden will have a large central picnic area, surrounded by a path that will be usable by children in wheelchairs, with beds around the edge and a wildflower mound at the far end. Work started on the path on the 6th April. The rush is on to get the garden area looking as good as possible!  We have made a list of wildlife-friendly plants and are asking for donations of plants or seeds from the list that are in your own garden. Please click here to see the list.

Beetles, Crickets and a Snake

How can I describe the joy of working at the Barnet Countryside Centre (oops!) I mean the Barnet Environment Centre! Your management of the nature reserve has provided 957 children with a wonderful first-hand experience of nature and me with the best teaching experience I’ve had in my career. I can’t count the number of times teachers, parents and children have said to me, “I’ve learnt so much” or “This is the best school trip I’ve ever been on”. Continue reading