Using Wildlife to Learn

Our latest Bushnell clips from the school grounds..

Last week we set the Bushnell trail camera up in the school grounds to see what might be using our wild learning area. There were lots of signs that animals had been around there over the summer holidays.

This week’s footage shows a fox visiting regularly and one visit from a badger!!

Our challenge next is to try to find out where the badger is coming in and what else it does when it is in our Wild Learning Area!! It’s very exciting though!



We start harvesting from the Grow Zone!

Over the summer holidays, our Grow Zone has been doing pretty well. It is a little overgrown, but lots of food is ready to harvest.

Some pupils from Year 4 made a start this morning, by picking some tomatoes, beans and 2 rather large courgettes!


We also started to pull up some weeds and prepare the ground for some winter crops that year 6 are going to plant as part of their Yr 6 World War II project.

The tomatoes looked so good that we all chose one, washed it and ate it… they were delicious!!


We also put our lovely fresh tomatoes onto our school salad bar for lunchtime… it’s always great to eat the fruit we have grown ourselves!



Welcome back to a new school year!

Where has the summer gone? The holidays always seem to pass so quickly and we are back to school, ready to start a new term before we know it! Wren was looking forward to her first day back and she is a good indication of how much time has passed. When everyone last saw Wren she was pretty small…..Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 14.04.19

Six weeks of summer holidays and Wren has now doubled in size….

IMG_8441Wren is our school dog and will be around whenever WildlifeKate is in school. Just like us, she is trying her hardest to learn how to behave properly in school. She will be visiting classes and assemblies in the next few months.

Wren is not the only things that has grown a lot! Our Grow Zone is a bit of a jungle and there is a lot of food to be harvested. As part of Year 6’s topic on World War II, they will be ‘Digging for Victory’ next week and trying up and harvesting the area. We will then be doing some cooking with our produce.

WildlifeKate spent some time in the Wild Learning area tidying up as well. We have a lovely willow dome that is a super place to sit, chill and relax. The dome is living, which means the willow keeps growing. Several times a year, it has to be trimmed and re-woven so that all the new growth is woven back in, so it gradually gets thicker and more covered…

Here is the ‘before’ picture…


… and after it has been woven in….


We also discovered some exciting…….’stuff’… well ‘poo’ to be precise…. but this is ‘special’ poo… in a little hole. It is known as a ‘latrine’ and it is where a badger has been visiting! Badgers like to dig a hole, then every night, they come and poo in the same place in the hole. This latrine tells us that our badger is visiting regularly which is fantastic news!


We set the Bushnell trail cam to ‘watch’ the area over the next week so we can see how often our badger is coming! The fox is also around too… may be we will film him on the trail cam as well.

We also have some bee hotels in our Wild Learning Area. These holes seem to be full of leaves…. they have been visited by leaf cutter bees! They have lined the tube with leaves and made little chambers where they have laid eggs and filled it with nectar and pollen. The new leaf cutter bees will develop in there and pupate, staying there until next Spring.


Lot of life still around, even though Autumn is just around the corner….. let’s hope the sun lasts a little longer, if only to make out tiny new apples grow bigger! These are the first apples we have had so far in our orchard!






Yr 6 try out their ‘Find it’ Game with Yr 3

Last week, some year 6 pupils spent a morning in the Hayes, collecting and looking for items to make a ‘Find it’ type game for younger pupils. One group, in particular, worked really hard and created a fantastic set of cards, all laminated and bound. They chose a great set of different things to find, from leaves and berries to works and beetles.

As a reward for their hard work, they trialled their challenge with the Year 3 Green Team.

Heading to the Hayes, the Yr 6 girls spread their cards out on a tree trunk. They explained to the Green team that they would have to try and find the things on the cards. When they had found it, they would return to the tree trunk, show their item and, in return, get the card. The aim was to get as many cards as they could!

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The pupils spent an hour in the words, searching high and low for all the different items and found most of them. The Green team also came up with some ideas as to different items that could be added to the game.

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We all had a fantastic time and the challenge worked really well.


Yr 3 Journey Strings… with Wren!

Wren’s first trip out today was with the Year 3 pupils, who demonstrated how to behave when outside of the school grounds! We headed to the Hayes, where the children were set the challenge of creating a ‘Journey String’. Each child had a long length of string and they had to chose items to go on the string… items that interested them. They would have to be able to explain why they chose it.

An hour walk around the Hayes meant we collected lots of lovely things, including beautiful leaves, seeds, flowers, cones, feathers, twigs and stones.  thumb_IMG_8382_1024thumb_IMG_8383_1024thumb_IMG_8384_1024thumb_IMG_8385_1024thumb_IMG_8386_1024thumb_IMG_8387_1024thumb_IMG_8389_1024thumb_IMG_8390_1024thumb_IMG_8394_1024thumb_IMG_8395_1024thumb_IMG_8396_1024thumb_IMG_8397_1024thumb_IMG_8398_1024thumb_IMG_8393_1024

Wren took it all in her stride and behaved very well…… when we got back, she decided she needed to sleep all afternoon…… that walk had worn her out!


Meet ‘Wren’… a new member of the MDJS family!

WildlifeKate grew up with dogs. They were a big part of her life and many of us will have dogs as part of our family. Many, however, cannot have or do not want a dog; they may not want to make that commitment or work means they cannot take on a dog who would be left for long periods on its own. WildlifeKate wanted her next dog to be very much part of the work she does both at school and in the wildlife consultancy work.

Miss Compton likes pupils being able to interact with animals in school and we have seen the immense benefits they have brought to our pupils. We have 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs and some chickens.  We also have a lovely labrador, Pebbles, who comes in and is our ‘reading dog’. Reluctant readers come to a quiet area with bean bags and read their books to Pebbles! Pebbles is an excellent listener and always wags her tail in support of the reader!

Many children have little or no contact with animals. Our hens and rabbits give many children their first opportunity to interact with, and learn about animals.  At the weekend, WildlifeKate took on a small 11 week old collie pup who was on her way to a rescue centre. She hadn’t exactly planned on having a puppy at this point, but this little pup needed a home and was exactly what she was looking for! She has come home with WildifeKate, but will also be a school dog! Whenever WildlifeKate is in school, this little girl will be as well

Meet ‘Wren’!!

Starting her young , Wren will get used to the school environment and will be able to accompany WildlifeKate on her work outside and give children the chance to learn more about the care and responsibility of keeping a dog. She will also give lots of children the chance to have contact with a dog, help train her and see her grow up in our school environment.

Today, Wren had her first day at school and met all the pupils in assembly!


She was not phased by all the oohs and ahhs and we are all very happy to welcome to welcome her to our MDJS family.



Look out for her in and about school!


We send a team of pupils to Neovia Logistics Eco day

A few weeks ago, MDJS sent a team of pupils and some staff to the Neovia Logistics Eco Day. We had had to apply to be part of the day by sending in an application, explaining all we do in school on an eco theme….. and there is quite a lot!

A selection of schools are then chosen to be part of a days full of editing events at the Caterpillar Cmetre in Desford.  Neovia Logistics, pride themselves in being Eco friendly. Every year they run a Schools Eco day where they ask schools to bring along pupils who are involved in making their school Eco friendly and sustainable. This year the event was  held on Tuesday, 23rd June. WildlifeKate really want to be part of the day, but she was in Shetland running a wildlife tour, so Miss Chetwynd and Mr Chadwick took a selection of pupils who have worked really hard all year!

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The day commenced with each school set up an Eco tabletop display and each school did  presentations demonstrating their Eco friendly initiatives.

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The day  included a visit to the Caterpillar Visitors Centre, where everyone was able to sit in and on all the great Caterpillar machinery!

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The children were also treated to a session of learning and fun delivered in the shape of ‘Rainforest Man’.

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The day with a presentation where everyone received  a goody bag and certificate and the school received a trophy and cheque  for £250 to help us become more eco friendly and sustainable!

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There will be some official photographs over the next week or so, but a big thanks to Miss Chetwynd and Mr Chadwick who took these photos and helped our wonderful pupils have such a great day!

What happens in a Bee Hotel?

When I ask the kids what they know about bees, they always say two things… they make honey and they sting! In fact, this is probably the answer that many adults would give too.  Most kids are also frightened of bees… as soon as they hear the buzz, they move away at varying speeds!

One of my aims is to re-educate the kids… if I can change their minds and teach them all about how wonderful bees are, then they could grow up with a much more positive attitude that they will pass onto their children.

Most people seem to think that a honey bee is the only bee…. although bumble bees are also sometimes recognised.  There are, in fact,  lots of different types of bee in the UK – around 250 species! There are 24 species of bumblebees, around 225 species of solitary bee and just a single honeybee species.

The solitary bees are easily attracted to your garden and schools through the use of bee ‘hotels’. We have set a number of these up at the school I teach at and there has been a lot of activity. Some we bought and some we made ourselves. One of the best ways to teach is to model behaviour. Me, with my nose just cm from the bee hotel, is the best way to show the children that they do not have to be nervous of these bees. They will not sting. One of the best places to buy one of these, if you don’t want to make one yourself, is Morrisons. At just  £3, they are a great addition to any garden. We customised ours with artificial turf roofs!



So, what actually happens in a Bee Hotel????? One of our Year 4 classes went to find out!

The females clean out the tube and then lay an egg in the far end. Collecting pollen and nectar, they carry it in on their abdomen and stroke it off onto the egg. They keep doing this until the egg is coated in nectar and pollen. They then seal a little chamber. The red mason bees do this by collecting wet mud and making a little door. They then repeat this process, creating numerous cells, each with an egg and a ‘packed-lunch’!

The egg then hatches, eats the nectar and pollen and the larva grows and eventually pupates. It remains in the cocoon all winter, to emerge the following spring. What is incredible is that the eggs that are at the front hatch first and they are males. These males wait on the outside, until the females nibble their way out. The whole cycle then starts again.

The children are fascinated by this cycle and love watching the bees flying in and out. What has made it even more fascinating is the observation hotel that my good friend, Dave Harper made for me. This means that the children can actually see the chambers… and they LOVE it!


I am determined to make sure the children are all aware of the wonderful world of solitary bees… and bumble bees…. and all the pollinators that ensure we have all the food we need….


New Rare Piglets born!

We are lucky enough to be able to pop over the road to the High School to see the animals they keep there. Recently, the school acquired a very special pig… she is a species called a British Landrace Pig. Shipped over from Northern Ireland, she is an incredibly rare pig! This species is even rarer than snow leopards and giant pandas!

“Each of the animals represents 50 per cent of the mainland population of their bloodline so they definitely are very important pigs,” explained Miss Simpkin at the school.

A few weeks ago nine beautiful piglets were born and Photography Club went over to take their picture. They were a little shy, preferring to stay in their sty but we did get some shots of them!

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It was very exciting to be able to see these beautiful babies and to be able to go right in the pen. This breed is very passive and the female was not worried at all by our presence. How wonderful that these new youngsters will help to ensure that this rare breed continues to thrive. Photography Club will be uploading their images this week  and we’ll pop some on the blog soon.

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