Free RSPB school activity takes flight

RSPB

The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

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School children across the UK will be filling up bird feeders, turning classrooms into bird hides and creating wildlife friendly bakes in preparation for watching and counting the birds in their school grounds for the 20th anniversary of the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch. The Birdwatch – which takes place during the first half of the Spring term (5 January – 22 February) – is a chance for children to participate in a UK-wide citizen science project and generate real life data. The Birdwatch involves children watching and counting the birds that visit their outdoor space, before sending the results to the RSPB.

This past year, we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps, but nature needs us too. By taking part in the Birdwatch, children are helping to build an annual snapshot of how our birdlife is doing across the UK. With over a million school children taking part since its launch in 2002, the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect opportunity to enrich the curriculum through outdoor learning, even during the winter months.

 RSPB Schools Outreach sponsored by ALDI. Big Schools Birdwatch session (reception class), Livingstone Primary and Nursery School, New Barnet, Hertfordshire, January 2016

Rachael White, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator said: “For 20 years, Big Schools’ Birdwatch has provided children an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills through outdoor learning whilst contributing to something bigger; a UK-wide citizen science project. Children can also monitor the impact they have made in their school grounds by comparing the number of birds seen one year to the next after making changes such as putting out bird food or planting more wildlife friendly plants which encourage insects the birds feed on -then compare their results to the UK data.

Over the last two decades, more than 70 difference species have been recorded, giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring. The blackbird remained at the top of the Big School Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen school bird with over 15,000 sighted in 2020, with an average of 5 seen per school. The woodpigeon held down the second spot, with the house sparrow completing the top three.

The Big Schools Birdwatch is a free activity. Teachers are sent a pack to help make delivery of the Birdwatch simple. Teachers can pick any day during the first half of the Spring term to take part, with the flexibility to run it as a one off or as the centre piece of a cross-curricular study, enrichment activity or a way for the children to improve their outdoor space as part of completing their Wild Challenge Award. Many schools prepare for the event in advance by taking measures to give nature a home in their school grounds, such as putting up feeders and nestboxes and making bird cake. Seeing and counting the birds coming to their feeders during the Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect reward for their efforts.

 Children doing Big Schools Birdwatch at school

For your free 20th anniversary Big Schools’ Birdwatch pack visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

The pack includes everything a teacher will need to take part, including bird fact files, survey sheets, advice on how to get the most out of their Birdwatch and help getting started on a Wild Challenge Award.

Registration for Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2021 is now open.

The Big Schools' Birdwatch is the school version of the Big Garden Birdwatch – the world's largest garden wildlife survey. The event will take place over three days on 29, 30 and 31 January 2021 and further information can be found on the RSPB website rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

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