How to be a Young North East Naturalist reaches a new milestone

Though it’s hard to believe, NHSN’s How to be a Young North East Naturalist project is now over halfway through! Here, Nature Ranger, Jack Butlin, shares an update on the project so far.

The delivery phase of How to be a Young North East Naturalist is now over halfway through. We can’t quite believe how quickly the time is passing, but, as we all too often say – time flies when you’re having fun! During the first half of the Summer Term, Julie and I have been visiting each of our 5 schools for weekly, half-day workshops. The content of each workshop has been carefully tailored to the results of a baseline survey sent out to participating students, teachers, and parents. Our aims are to engage children in the wonderful wildlife of the North East, allowing them to notice nature wherever they are and appreciate the interconnected methods with which we can connect with nature. Be that through art, science, literature, and myriad other forms.

One of the most engaging elements has been camera trapping. Two traps have been set up in each school and a whole range of wildlife has been captured. We’ve been delighted to find foxes and hedgehogs plus over 6 species of bird, including my favourite – Long-tailed Tits. It’s been a delight witnessing the excitement on the children’s faces when we look through the images. Other activities have included minibeast hunts, building habitats, getting to grips with birds and their songs, creating beautiful pieces of nature-based art and poetry, and much, much more.

Another massively enjoyable component of the project has been bringing each school to Gosforth Nature Reserve. With help from our incredible team of volunteers, we have discovered the wildlife in our pond, looked for and listened to birds in the woodland and on the lake, hunted for woodland minibeasts, and explored the wider reserve. It is a pleasure to be able to show so many children the wonderful wildlife that Gosforth Nature Reserve holds – they often find it difficult to choose just one favourite part, with one student announcing upon his exit “My favourite part was everything!”.

Some of our students have also been helping us with a very special task – officially opening the Field Studies Room at Gosforth Nature Reserve. One student, who has only been speaking English for a few months, amazed guests with a beautiful poem. Others regaled with humour and passion the impact How to be a Young North East Naturalist has had on them, explaining how they have begun to notice nature wherever they are – it was an emotional affair. Another group of students added a final touch to the outdoor learning area by planting a buddleia, something that will hopefully have a lasting legacy on the Reserve and the children themselves.

As we roll into the final weeks of our delivery phase we will begin to reflect on the project and try to tie in some elements of activism and conservation – hopefully empowering our young people to protect their precious North East Nature. We also have the exciting prospect of our Celebration Event. On 13 July we will be gathering our schools together at the Great North Museum: Hancock to present each child with a certificate, share stories, premier some video content, and explore the Museum itself. We’re looking forward to what we think will be a beautiful ceremony, albeit one tinged with sadness as we say farewell to the students and teachers we have worked so closely with. We will, however, hopefully, see many of them again at a series of summer Open Days at Gosforth Nature Reserve.

As ever, we at NHSN would like to extend a huge thank you to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Without the generous funding we received, none of the magic and wonder we have experienced and shared would have been possible.

Jack Butlin
Nature Ranger

Jack is jointly responsible for delivering NHSN’s How to be a North East Young Naturalist project, working closely with local schools to provide educational activities, carry out school visits and provide opportunities for children to learn about, experience and enjoy the natural world.