Nepetas are great for bees and the children at Monard NS grew the purple flower as part of their special pollinator bed
The last week before the summer holidays saw many schools exploring their own doorstep and discovering local, stories, history and wildlife. I joined the staff and students from Monard NS for a nature walk and we explored the extensive grounds around their school.
The main road is busy like the village, but once I stepped inside the gate I was immediately taken in by the wildlife and the energy and fun of the staff and students. The school has retained its beautiful cut stone exterior but inside is modernised and very comfortable to meet the needs of their students and wider community.
During renovations bats were discovered but these useful creatures were accommodated and the extension was completed. Other residents also live around the school. We saw a housesparrows flying into a nest box at the front of the school to feed his hungry chicks.
Throughout the day there was plenty to see in the well balanced outdoor space and classroom. There are cut lawns where the students can run around or just relax and chat.
While the whole school is good for wildlife we spent the day exploring three main habitats. The first habitat was a small pond that the school put in. It was packed full of life and especially tadpoles. These were put in by one of the teachers and student. They were all at different stages of development. Some had back legs, others also had front legs and some were still like wriggling comas.
Tadpoles normally get their back legs first so they quickly swim away from predators. We also caught a water beetle and found a bloodworm. The latter are the larva of a fly. We used a freshwater chart to identify our finds and also get an indication of the water quality.
The pond is a fabulous addition to the outdoor classroom and is a great example of how helping nature can be done safely and does not take a huge amount of space.
Next we explored the large beds of patch of Nepeta and comfrey that are part of the pollinator bed. Nepeta has long spikes of lilac flowers and is brilliant for bees and other insects.
We recorded five different species throughout the day including some massive queens and tiny workers. We looked at the patterns of black and yellow bands on their bodies and also their bums that can vary from orange, red to white. All of these features helped us to identify the different species.
There was also lots of honeybees and i know that many gardeners and tidy towns groups are now keeping bees and it is great to see the interest in this ancient tradition.
Our last habitat of a busy day was an area of long grass, flowers and nettles. The lawn cuttings are piled here and this creates the ideal nitrogen rich soil for nettles. First we swept the long grass using the net and caught no insects. Next we swept the long grass and it was full of life.
The tray walked, crawled and hopped with insects. Loads of flies for bats, weevil’s spiders and aphids all form the building block of food chains for larger creatures.
While outside we were celebrating nature inside in the staff room it was a celebration of homemade cakes. Some of the parents and the former principal had been busy baking and the cakes were delicious.
While doing online schools has been fine I missed the chat, company and energy of a live class. Thanks to all in Monard NS for a day of fun and discovery.
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