A blue planet adventure in south Leeds

[slideshow]Somewhere on this little blue planet, South Leeds in the United Kingdom to be precise, sixty two children and twenty two grown-ups stepped out of the classroom and went out for an adventure…

The destination was Skelton Grange Environment Centre and the weather was wet and windy, with plenty of squelching mud under foot.

This wasn’t going deter the tough, year one children of Ninelands Primary School from having a tremendous adventure. They were out for a good time. When they arrived they were shown the purpose-built environment centre, with colourful walls adorned with things of natural beauty and wonder, advice on how to live sustainable lives and how we can look after this precious little blue planet that we all share. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got. There was very little time to be hanging around in the warm and cosy centre heated by solar thermal and ground source heat pumps though. There was a whole world out there and so after a short introduction, the children and grown-ups headed out into the near-gale conditions once again.

They had come to the centre as part of their half term creative curriculum topic: Little Blue Planet – Investigating spaceship Earth, where pupils are introduced to the small planet we call home.

The children have been developing their knowledge of Earth by exploring a range of topics, including different ways of mapping the world, why we have day/night time, seasons, oceans and rivers.

The children have been doing investigations into plants and bees and how our Earth nurtures us by providing for our everyday needs. All in the hope that it will enable the children to talk more confidently about their world and why it matters to think about our actions today with tomorrow in mind.

Tina Roberts, class teacher and initiator of the Ninelands Nature Play programme commented:

“Skelton Grange Environment Centre provides supportive practical activities to show children how to respect living things and how to have fun in nature, which works brilliantly within the Little Blue Planet framework and the Nature Play programme we are utilising at school.”

When they ventured outside they took part in a whole range of activities to enrich and deepen their understanding of the natural world.

They went on plant walks collecting leaves and flowers to make into home-made potpourribags, some of them smelling powerfully of Wild Garlic! They then went to work at building their own pebble village, thinking about what resources they might need to survive and how they might sustain their village; installing mini wind turbines, vegetable patches, gardens, parks and huts of sticks and stones.

All this hard work and imagination had obviously left them feeling very hungry and so they went in for lunch to regain their strength. Whilst they were in they took part in the Skelton Grange Waste-Free-Lunch challenge! They thought about where their lunch waste ends up if it goes into the black bin and discussed what we can all do to send less waste to the polluting and stinking landfill. After they had finished eating the children got to hold Brian the Giant African Land Snail. Katherine James aged 5 remarked “Ew, he’s really slimey!”

With refreshed vigour they ventured into the dark woods where they went hunting for minibeasts, turning over stones and logs in an attempt to find out about the huge numbers of insects, molluscs and other invertebrates busying themselves on the woodland floor.

They explored the ponds of Skelton Grange with nets and special viewing tanks and found huge numbers of underwater inhabitants; predators and prey including smooth newts, cadis fly larvae, water boatmen, frogs, toads and dragon fly larvae.  Finally to commemorate the occasion they made magnificent crowns, using all the colourful leaves, feathers and fruits all around them.

Amy Wright, Education Officer at Skelton Grange commented:

“The kids were absolutely fantastic and taught us grown ups a thing or two about how to have fun in such wet and windy conditions! It’s the first time we’ve ran a Little Blue Planet Day and we’re now thinking about making it part of our education programme at Skelton. The whole day was brilliant and the children learnt loads through their outdoor exploring.”

After all this it was time to go home. Most children were wet through and exhausted, but all went away smiling, waving fond farewells to the team at Skelton Grange.

– Written by Ralph Walker -The Conservation Volunteers at Skelton Grange Environment Centre. Donations to the centre can be made by searching for Skelton Grange Environment Centre on the www.localgiving.com website.