By Jodie Case, Research Assistant, Owl Box Initiative
The Owl Box Initiative is a project to inspire farmers and communities to work for the conservation of the Barn Owl, but it is also aims to provide opportunities for a wide range of people to work outdoors and engage with wildlife. In today’s world, nature must regularly battle with technology and gadgets for the attention of the younger generation, with many living in more urban areas being deprived of crucial nature and wildlife encounters that can be so rewarding for the soul.
Despite the strong competition for attention, nature has the support of many organisations and projects to help engage and teach children and teenagers about the natural world and provide many opportunities to get involved and learn new skills.
The Country Trust is a wonderful organisation which aims to ‘bring food, farming and the countryside alive for disadvantaged children, sharing knowledge, igniting curiosity and broadening horizons’. Through farm visits, farmers are able to share their passion for what they do while connecting children with where and how they’re food is produced, and to help children build confidence to try new things.
The National Trust has set children a nature challenge of sorts by setting out ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4’. The array of tasks ranges from watching a sunset, rolling down a big hill, spotting a fish or making friends with a bug!
The Educational Trust, run by the National Gamekeepers Organisation have been providing guidance for children and teachers, by talking to people through travelling exhibitions and providing educational resources, such as examples of predators and the equipment used by gamekeepers. Their aim is to promote awareness of wildlife, the wise use of natural resources and the importance of habitat management.
‘Farmer Time’, co-ordinated by LEAF, is a fantastic opportunity to connect classrooms with farmers by working with technology. Fortnightly video calls are made from a farmer who has been matched with a school to chat live from the farm. This is a great way for farmers to share knowledge, answer questions and for children to understand the issues facing farmers today.
As well as organisations and charities promoting connections with the natural environment, educational institutions have also recognised the importance of incorporating an environmental outlook.
Forest Schools are a popular, additional nature-based learning process for children, to provide a hands-on experience in a natural setting. Schools can also now achieve ‘Eco-School’ status by completing a seven-step framework, including creating an eco-committee within the school, along-side an environmental action plan and other measures. Secondary schools may also soon be able to continue the connection to nature through a proposed Natural History GCSE, which would delve deeper into the finer connections involved in the natural world.
As shown by the above avenues, the opportunity to connect young people with nature is most certainly on the rise, and the Owl Box Initiative is committed to providing resources and opportunity for young people to be involved in wildlife conservation and research; so, as shown below, we were delighted to see the Stroud School’s Year 7 pupils getting up close with nature, identifying small mammal bones from owl pellets as a way to understand barn owl diet and foraging needs.
The Owl Box Initiative will be providing information, children’s wildlife activities and resources for individuals, schools and community groups to use and share. Our first children’s activity provides guidance on ‘How to make a small mammal ink tracking tunnel’ with links to the Mammal Society’s Mammal Mapper App to enter your survey results, so you can contribute to knowledge of the UK’s small mammal populations.
Please do send us pictures of your ink tracking tunnels to email@example.com so we can share them on our website and social media!