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Led by the Wild Environmental Day Trip

One of our trips this term was a taster-day trip to White Woods Farm in Aldington, a small village close to Ashford. A charity called, ‘Led by the Wild’ were offering a free taster day, and free follow-on whole class trip to their site for a few schools in the local area. The Senior Climate Action Officer, Claire Norman, from our local borough council (who we work very closely with) nominated 8 lucky schools to trial the experience. The ‘Led by the Wild’ is a community conservation and environmental education charity organisation who hold nature led learning and environmental awareness based activities, wellbeing courses and community conservation days which was founded and run by Tom & Ali Body. Their ethos is “to promote and nurture a love for nature.”  Although, on the taster day I could only take three children, they had a wonderful time. The day started with all the schools being greeted by a miniature shetland pony called Molly; this was to put any children who were feeling anxious about visiting a new place, at ease, and it worked wonders. We then had a tour of the site – through ancient woodland to wild meadows – led by a very knowledgeable team member.

After the tour, we had a quick look around the forest school and learning areas which were packed with interesting spaces: outdoor library, storytelling corner, wooden stage, hammocks, mud kitchen, fire pit, shelter building and, most exciting of all …

the compostable toilet. All the girls, braved the ‘experience’ of the little wooden hut with handfuls of wood shavings instead of flushing water – they thought it very funny!

After exploring, we sat down together to discuss the activities that had been planned for the day: collecting and studying bees, pond dipping, mini bio-blitz and tree shaking. Before heading off, we were all presented with a huge selection of resources for us to take away. We had: bug hunting kits with bug catchers, bug viewers, microscopes, tree shaking tarpaulins and butterfly nets; pond dipping kits with magnifying glasses, trays, nets and pond life identification worksheets; bird feeders and bird seed. This was totally unexpected and amazing; a huge thank you to Led by the Wild for being so generous – we have already put some off the items to good use in school.

Once we were equipped with some of our new resources, we were split into smaller groups so we could rotate around all the activities in more manageable numbers. The first activity we took part in was the mini bio-blitz. We headed off into the wooded area, and set up our metre square to include a nice old, mossy tree stump remains. Not only did we find woodlouse, ants, a beetle and a few centipedes, we were lucky enough to find a common toad and a common frog; they were tucked away under the piles of fallen leaves. Of course, we made sure that they went safely back into the leaf litter after we had looked at them.

Our follow on activity for the morning was a tree shake where were laid out a white tarpaulin under a tree and gentle shook the branches to see what insects fell to the floor. We found lots of beautiful pale green spiders which we found out were called ‘cucumber spiders’, there were also shield bugs and a ladybird larva which the girls had never seen before. It was a very interesting activity especially the cucumber spiders!

After our picnic lunch, we spent the afternoon pond dipping and bee collecting!

Using our new nets, we were lucky enough to scoop up some pond skaters, greater water boatman and, the only group to be lucky enough to find, a baby newt! I think the girls have honed their pond dipping techniques from having our own natural pond in school. We also saw another common frog; this one was just sitting in some weed on the edge of the pond, and sat there watching us until the end of our session which was funny!

We then moved on to our last activity where we went to the butterfly and bee gardens with the task of gently capturing bees. Using our butterfly net, we carefully put them into a viewing pot to enable us to take a closer look at them. It was amazing to see the different varieties of bees – we found a White Tailed Bumblebee, a Garden Bumblebee and a Honey Bee. The girls were so careful and it was lovely to see them so unafraid of these fantastic insects as they all buzzed around us. Again, the staff from Led by the Wild were so well informed and answered all of our many questions.

Suddenly, the day was over. We had such an amazing time and from this free taster trip we have been given a free whole class trip. On return to school, I offered this fabulous opportunity to our Year 2 class who have been learning about pollinators for their topic work. I have already spoken to Ali Body and pulled together a plan for their day. They will be, of course, looking at bees in the flower garden area and then learning about other insects that help with pollination, not forgetting to look at those plants that pollinate by other means – it is going to be a good day, for sure, and let us hope the weather is as kind to them as it was to us on our day.

A huge thank you to the Led by the Wild team who made our day so enjoyable; I just know Year 2’s day will be as fantastic!

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