A ONE PLANET FUTURE
This account, written by Agent H and a number of Chrono-bots gives details of the small measures we have taken during the summer term to increase students’ understanding of animals, people and the environment. We measure every student’s carbon footprint at the end of Year 7 and cannot claim that many of us could live on the resources of less than three plants. We have therefore called this project ‘A One Planet Future’
Although this is an account of our summer term activities, we will start by saying that in January, we adopted two chimpanzees through the Jane Goodall Institute. We have also adopted an orphan orangutan, a Galapagos tortoise, a blue footed booby and a coral atoll! Students enjoy receiving information about their adopted animals and likewise enjoy the ambassadors that come into school to speak about the work of the various charities they represent. At the time of writing, we are planning visits from Care for the Wild, who we support with a recycling initiative, and from Send a Cow that we also support. We have had a talk and plan another on practices in farming and vegetarianism. We don’t want to push this at students but we know that this, rather like the bushmeat campaign, makes people think about what they eat.
We thought Hugh’s Fish Fight concerning ‘discards’ was a campaign worth backing, even though we knew that, at the time, there were no suggestions from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for an appropriate line of action to take. Students felt very strongly about the issues he was highlighting. In late spring, we made paper fish (below) and decorated the whole school with them before students arrived. We removed them just as quickly. This was specifically designed to draw attention to the issue! We sent a letter of support to Hugh on behalf of hundreds of Ringwood students who had signed his petition against the ‘discards’ policy. We received a letter of thanks and our letter reached the Common Fisheries Policy Reform Group.
Fish Fight got people talking about how the fishing industry works and what it’s doing to the oceans, and their have been some amazing successes. We have kept up this action throughout the summer term as the initial ‘discards’ campaign broadened into other issues. We supported an email campaign and consider that we have been part of the push to smarten the practices of Tesco, Asda, Princes and John West where tinned tuna’s concerned.
Late spring and early summer was demanding for our campaigning students as we also had great discussions about the future of Britain’s forests, an environmental issue, rather than an ‘animals’ issue, and students wrote letters to our MP. So many students felt passionately about the forest issue we were able to extend this action well beyond our Roots & Shoots students.
Birds of Prey
Lots of students enjoyed a visit from a local Reptiles and Raptors Centre. Ed, with two other staff gave a great talk about a young barn owl, a hooded vulcher and a buzzard. Students much enjoyed meeting them at close quarters as the photos show. At a time when so many youngsters do not have pets, we think it is really important to allow youngsters to see animals such as these at close quarters. Two of our Chronobots were particularly keen to learn that the Centre genuinely does rescue birds of prey and take on others for educational purposes only when they have been bred in captivity. They have written their own account of the visit.
What a hoot!
An account by Ellie and Anna
We invited students from all year groups to a delightful morning visit from three of the feathery characters of Liberty’s Raptor and Reptile Centre, and their highly knowledgeable handlers. The first on show was a young (and very well behaved) Barn Owl called Tyto: at 20 weeks old this was Tyro’s premier appearance! Barn owls are native to the UK and events such as this are extremely important to the UK Barn Owl population. Due to the destruction of their habitats and roosting sites such as barns and outbuildings, and the construction of roads cutting through the fields that they hunt in., we learnt that Barn Owl populations are in sharp decline.
Another threat to the Barn Owl population is competition from the second bird shown. Victor the very impressive, 30 week old European Buzzard was also on his first outing. This Buzzard has a very effective method of hunting, perching high on telegraph poles or treetops, its amazing eyesight enabling it to spot rabbits and other small rodents before it swoops down to grab its prey. Using minimum effort to hunt means the Buzzard is now common across most of the UK.
The third and final bird shown was by far the most peculiar; Sly the African Hooded Vulture was a sure favourite with the students, with his unusual and bizarre looks. The African Hooded Vulture was the only bird that is not native to the UK but to Africa (as the name suggests). Vultures are scavengers and use thermals to reach astonishing heights, and they rely on their eyesight and the movement of other vultures to find food. After the talk students were keen to ask constructive and interesting questions about all the birds shown. And the visit was followed up a week later with owl and other raptor pellet dissections that were interesting, informative and good fun.
We would like to thank Liberty’s for their visit and Ed in particular for making up a great display of raptor pellets that we were able to keep in school for a week.
We followed up the visit with a great Roots & Shoots session dissecting raptor pellets. Ed provided a big display board showing bird of prey pellets. It explained the differences between those of different species and how they are formed. After looking at the display, with the help of sixth former leaders, students dissected a great variety of pellets. Using Ed’s carefully prepared and interactive display, students were able to identify which bird had produced which pellet. In some cases, pellets were empty (the hawks, and students were encouraged to think why this was the case.) In other cases students were able to assemble large parts of the skeleton of the animal the bird had eaten.
Many of our wildlife group are avid birdwatchers. Yet again we carried out RSPB Birdwatch and now have enough data to make interesting year on year comparisons. Following concerns about the decline in garden wildlife due to habitat loss and climate change, the RSPB ran a more wide-ranging survey than the annual Birdwatch that we take part in. Make Your Nature Count ran 4-12 June 2011. The RSPB asked the public to record birds, but it also wanted to know about some of the other wildlife visiting gardens eg badgers, toads, bats and snakes. We knew that looking at bird life during the summer lets the RSPB judge breeding patterns, and also note numbers of migrating birds like swifts and house martins. Ringwood is a sparrow and swift stronghold so we wanted to carry out this survey on the school site but we couldn’t: this was in the heart of our exam season. Thus it was an activity that could only be carried out at home, but keen students did exactly that. We do report data about our swifts: an early arrival this year and an early departure. We have watched our bird boxes with interest throughout the summer term, noting that nothing took up our box with webcam for the first year ever. Our most successful box was our sparrow lodge which saw parents raise no less than THREE clutches this year. The photo shows behaviour students find fascinating – a sparrow seemingly warming itself on the bricks adjacent to the lodge. We discovered that it was removing tiny insects from the mortar that acted as baby sparrow food!
A Blashford Birdwatch
The birding group (below) spent an interesting time at Blashford Lakes, leaving school at 8.00am in order to gain maximum time. Students enjoyed ‘bug searches’ and particularly the quest to find cinnabar moth caterpillars (left) on ragwort. They were fascinated to learn that these caterpillars accumulate ragwort poison becoming highly toxic.
Bob, the Warden of Blashford Lakes Study Centre, arranged a birdwatch, providing binoculars for those who lacked their own, and a telescope.
Students learnt about the rafts that volunteers had built for terns and saw a variety of species including terns, a greater crested grebe and Egyptian geese. Some sixth formers resolved to make themselves available as volunteers during the summer holidays and will enjoy a celebratory barbeque with the Wildlife Trust.
As a final ‘birding event’ many students have enjoyed watching the five cuckoos electronically tagged and monitored by satellite, make their way from England to Africa!
Early morning is not the best time to see a wide variety of butterflies but given that lessons started at 9.15am, this was the only time available to us! Thus, led by sixth form Chronobots, sixteen students kick started our response to the challenge of The Big Butterfly Count. Butterfly Conservation asked people to spend 15 minutes spotting butterflies in parks, woods or their own gardens over a two week period (July 16-31). On July 15th we had a training session in readiness for the event, but our practice run, in the cool of the early morning, revealed only two butterflies, a large cabbage white (left) and a red admiral, both on buddleia plants. However, we were able to train up a group of students capable of carrying out the survey for the required 15 minutes during the first week of the holidays. Good news for butterflies! Students were also interested to learn about The Daily Telegraph’s poster with its interesting new technology that supported the count.
Yet more invertebrates!
Our wildlife group find it difficult to control the blanket weed and crassula (right) in our wildlife pond, but have made valiant efforts to do so before school. The pond is otherwise in good health as indicated by the species we have found when dipping during the summer
On the penultimate day of the summer term, twenty five students took part carried out a survey that helped to provide data that will help record the incredible variety of invertebrates in UK and will show how the built environment affects invertebrates – Bugs Count! Students learnt that bugs, or invertebrates, are a vital part of our environment. They can pollinate plants, recycle nutrients, and they provide an important food source for birds and mammals. We are really keen on getting the message that bugs really do count across, because while we can help to save iconic animals in Africa and UK, without taking care of animals at the bottom of the food chain, many of these animals cannot survive.
Students found as many bugs as they could in 15 minute challenges. Led by Rosie and new sixth form leaders, students also kept a special eye out for the six species quest bugs
What a way to end the term! Our sixth formers entered the results of the survey (it is a national survey) on the last day of term! We were pleased not to be beaten by time and at the end of term our students were given home learning! As mentioned above, some will carry out the butterfly survey, and secondly signed up for the excellent Hedgehog Street, we have suggested that students engage their neighbours and may their street hedgehog safe! We will take up the hedgehog theme in autumn.
We cannot close the term without providing a word about our campaigns concerning animals. In addition to promoting Dr Jane’s bushmeat campaign, and Hugh’s Fish Fight (described earlier) students have emailed supported Compassion in World Farming’s attempts to improve conditions for farm animals and to prevent the export of live animals. They have emailed Mattel, the company that makes Barbie dolls, demanding that their company ends its involvement with the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. More campaigning students emailed our MP asking for him to back a ban on wild animals performing in English circuses. The issue was debated in parliament in late June and MPs voted to back the ban. Success!