Youngsters urged to learn about birdlife

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SCHOOLCHILDREN across West Sussex are being invited to take part in the biggest survey of birdlife in UK schools this winter, as the RSPB marks 10 years of its Big Schools’ Birdwatch.

Running from January 24 – February 4, the activity encourages children and their teachers to discover and learn about the birds that share their school environment.

Last year 26 schools in the county took part in the nationwide survey with a total of 830 West Sussex school children getting involved in counting birds.

Sophie McCallum, RSPB south east media officer, said: “For 10 years youngsters have joined in counting the birds in their school grounds. As well as contributing to our understanding of the changes in bird numbers, Big Schools’ Birdwatch does a fantastic job of inspiring thousands of children about nature.”

The survey also provides a purpose for their observations and helps the RSPB build a picture of birds visiting school grounds and the population changes they are experiencing.

In West Sussex, the Blackbird was the most common visitor to playgrounds with House sparrows coming in second place and Blue tits third.

Since its launch in 2002, the survey has grown in popularity, and last year, the RSPB introduced for the first time the Little Schools’ Birdwatch especially designed for 5’s and under.

A host of curriculum-linked learning can flow from the survey, with plenty of flexibility built-in to run it as simply as teachers would like.

Some schools make the activity the centrepiece of a whole week devoted to learning about wild birds while others hold after-school wildlife clubs or as part of work to improve their school grounds.

Another reason it’s so popular is that it appeals to teachers because it’s fun, easy and simple to set up and the activity works across a wide age and ability range.

No birdwatching expertise is necessary for teachers, helpers or children and the RSPB has produced a free schools pack containing everything a teacher will need. The emphasis is on having fun and joining in. The pack includes guidance notes, a full colour bird identification poster, counting chart and survey form.

Sophie added: “All you need to do to take part is watch and count the birds in your school grounds for one hour, then send one set of results back to the RSPB telling us what you saw.

“Whether you have seen several exotic species or just a few of the commonest birds, it doesn’t matter – all sightings are useful to us! We’d love our 10th birthday to the biggest and best yet.”

For further information and to get hold of a free 10th Birthday Big Schools’ Birdwatch teachers’ pack, visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch or ring 0300 456 8340.

The hotline number is open until February 4.