I Talk To The Trees: Distance Learning Outside
Our Head of Geography, Dr Phillips gives us some ideas of how pupils can learn about the outdoors, in the safety of their gardens, or from indoors.
As we face the prospect of watching one of Scotland’s famous long, hot summers pass by while at a safe social distance of at least two metres from each other, we have started to witness some unforeseen, though not entirely unwelcome, effects of our communal lockdown on the natural world. The European Space Agency reports decreased nitrous oxide levels of up to 80% over northern Italy. The waters of Venice lagoon are now so clear that fish are once again visible (though, sadly, the dolphin pictures appear to be fake). Deer are wandering through empty streets and subway stations in Nara, Japan, and boar have been strolling with impunity through the city of Barcelona.
So when the indoor classroom becomes too much, how else can you educate and entertain the troops. Here are some handy hints on using the nature we have on our own doorsteps:
- Birdwatching – get into your garden, or from a window in bad weather, and get birdwatching. Join in the fun via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds social media channels and use #breakfastbirdwatch on to part of a virtual community of birdwatchers. The Society’s website also has a list of family-friendly activities, some of which – like building a bird box, planting flowers to attract bees and butterflies, and making a minipond – can be done in your own garden, as part of their ‘Wild Challenge’ award scheme.
- Live footage of animals – even on those occasional rainy days, there is no excuse for not connecting with nature. The Scottish Wildlife Trust maintains a series of webcams through which you can watch live footage from some of their reserves, including the famous osprey nest at Loch Leven; and Edinburgh Zoo has webcams in a number of their enclosures, including that of the pandas. If that’s not enough, the BBC have made nine separate Sir David Attenborough box sets available through the iPlayer, going all the way back to the classic 1979 series Life on Earth.
- Check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Grown Your Own’ advice page. Amidst the global spread of the coronavirus, it has reported a recent spike in traffic to this particular advice page, as people turn to gardening as a way to guard against food shortages as a result of panic buying, and as a way to maintain their mental health.
And remember, even if you’re not of the green-fingered persuasion, you could always tune up your guitar and head outside to greet nature with three chords and the truth, like the group of musicians in Sheffield who have been playing gigs in their back gardens to maintain community spirits while people are self-isolating. And remember the Norwegian saying, ‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær’ – There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Dr Phillips, Head of Geography
RHS ‘Grow Your Own’ advice page: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own
RSPB ‘Wild Challenge’ activities: https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-families/family-wild-challenge/activities/
Scottish Wildlife Trust webcams: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/things-to-do/watch-wildlife-online/
Edinburgh Zoo webcams: https://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams/
Sir David Attenborough box sets: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/group/p06m42d9Back to News