School children across West Yorkshire 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 2019 RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch.

The Birdwatch – which takes place during the first half of the spring term (2 Jan – 22 Feb) – is a chance for children to put down their books and discover the nature that lives in their local community. The Birdwatch involves children spending an hour watching and counting the birds that visit their outdoor space, before sending the results to the RSPB.

A recent survey of 200 teachers and 1200 school children from around the UK revealed that 96% teachers believed it was important for children to experience nature at school, while three quarters of pupils agreed. With close to a million school children taking part since its launch in 2002, the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect opportunity for schools to get outside, learn and make their first discoveries in nature.

Last year, 60,000 children and teachers took part including over 1,260 in West Yorkshire, counting more than 100,000 birds. The blackbird was the most common playground visitor in the county with 90% of West Yorkshire schools spotting one during their watch. Robins, house sparrows and woodpigeons all featured prominently in the results, and with over 70 difference species recorded, there is sure to be a few surprises in schools around the country.

Emma Reed, RSPB Education, Families and Youth Manager in Northern England said: “Big Schools’ Birdwatch is a fun, educational activity and is free to take part. 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 their local wildlife. 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.”

The Big Schools Birdwatch is a free activity and only 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 in West Yorkshire 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.

To take part in the Birdwatch and help the next generation of children start their own wildlife adventure, visit;

rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is the school version of the Big Garden Birdwatch – the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey. The event will take place over three days on 26, 27 and 28 January 2019 and further information can be found on the RSPB website;

www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

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