Children take part in biggest wildlife survey in schools
PUPILS will be filling up bird feeders and creating wildlife-friendly bakes in preparation for watching and counting the birds in their school grounds.
The 2019 RSPB Big Schools' Birdwatch is underway and will continue until February 22.
It gives children a chance to put down their books and discover the nature in their community.
The watch involves young people spending an hour watching and counting the birds that visit their outdoor space, before sending the results to the RSPB.
A survey of 200 teachers and 1,200 school children from around the UK revealed that 96 per cent of teachers believed it was important for children to experience nature at school, while 77 per cent of pupils agreed.
Last year, in Northern Ireland, 129 schools took part. Blackbirds, starlings and hooded crows were the top three species spotted in school grounds.
Across the UK as a whole, robins, house sparrows and woodpigeons all featured prominently in the results and for the tenth successive year the blackbird was the most common playground visitor - with 88 per cent of schools spotting one during their watch.
The activity takes an hour to complete. 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, project work or a way for the children to improve their outdoor space.
Many schools prepare 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.
"Big Schools' Birdwatch is a fun, educational activity and is free to every school," said Karen Sheil, RSPB NI Learning Development Officer.
"It's flexible enough to fit into a lesson or during lunchtime and links well to the curriculum or project work and works for all ages and abilities.
"It also gives children an opportunity to get outside, experience and learn about wildlife local to them. Sadly, children are spending less time outside in nature, meaning they are missing out on the positive impact nature has on their education, physical health and emotional wellbeing. The birdwatch is the perfect chance to experience nature first hand, make exciting discoveries and provide valuable information on how our school birds are faring."
:: To take part, visit www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch.