One way of explaining what we do on our Educational Nature Reserves is to say that we bring the school curriculum to life. We let the woods and the meadows colour in the black-and-white textbooks and we introduce children to the reality of the wild world that surrounds us, deepening their understanding and helping them forge their own, hopefully lifelong, connection to nature.
This year, we’re launching a new session that should fulfil these objectives beautifully. 10 and 11 year olds have an exciting new addition to their curriculum; they are now required to understand adaptation and how it can lead to evolution, and they will be expected to learn about Charles Darwin and his life’s work. The Surrey Wildlife Trust take on this is the chance for schoolchildren to be Darwin for a Day (well, it’s half a day actually). Rather than just learning about Darwin, we give them the chance to experience a little slice of life through his eyes.
In the sessions we’ve run already this year, year 6 students have got stuck in to Darwin’s favourite past time (beetle hunting), they’ve developed their field sketching skills, they’ve touched on classification and they’ve experienced something that Darwin did at least once every day he was at home – walking the Thinking Path. The Thinking Path has been a surprise favourite for many of our visitors: allowing thoughts and questions to blow in on the breeze and having the time to mull them over, physically engaged by the rhythm of their steps and the visual feast offered by the reserve with their voices silent and their minds free to examine their ideas.
Throughout their time with us these young ‘Darwins’ are encouraged to question, question, and question some more. To formulate these questions, they must closely observe their environment and begin to record their observations and their thoughts. Each student is given a leaf from their own ‘Field Notebook’ to fill in during the session, and at the end of the day the class can collate their pages to form one cohesive document, a patchwork of thoughts and records which when taken back to school will serve both as a reminder of their day being Darwin and as a vivid springboard for follow up work.
The Darwin for a Day workshop is run by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Get in touch to find out more, or recommend to a friend.