The National Trust for Scotland are running a ‘Nature Explorers’ club for children every Tuesday during the summer holidays. I had taken my little smashers (aged 4 and 7) up to the garden this lunchtime; so as the weather was looking fine, we thought we would extend our outdoor time by taking a stroll through the edge of Bothwell Woods, and over the bridge to Blantyre to check out the club.
We were greeted by Richard and Duncan who were our guides for the afternoon and we (five children and two token grown-ups, who are welcome to either accompany the group or to relax with a coffee and a book for the duration) headed down to the Explorers’ Garden for some bug hunting. Despite the weather having been so dry, making sightings of creatures such as snails, woodlice and earwigs difficult, the children spotted a great number of beasties that they could view in magnifying tubs; with Richard describing the differences between creatures such as spiders and harvestmen perfectly for his young audience to understand. We also had a very informative, child orientated talk about bumblebees and their importance to the environment as pollinating insects, and the children were given ‘spotter-sheets’ to take home so they could identify other bumblebees they see.
We moved then down to the pond, where the children hugely enjoyed pond-dipping; discovering, amongst other things, diving beetles, sticklebacks, great pond snails and tadpoles in several stages of development (if you look closely at the picture, you will see some ‘teenage’ tadpoles with the legs already formed). The children found the tadpoles particularly fascinating and, again, Richard and Duncan answered every question simply, yet informatively and enthusiastically.
All too soon the 90 minutes were up, and it was time to return our pond beasts to their homes and head home (via the toilets to wash our hands, and the ice-cream freezer to suck money out of mummy’s wallet, of course); and my boys are desperate to come along again next week. Each week will focus on different aspects of nature, so there may not be more pond dipping; but parents are welcome to ring in advance to find out what will be on the menu in forthcoming weeks.
To sum up, I am really glad I took the boys along. I would say that the 90 minutes is just the right amount of time to keep most children enthralled (my 4 year old, who does not have the best attention span, started flagging a little towards the end and just ran around the trees); I would say it is absolutely perfect for children aged between 6 and 10. Richard and Duncan were fantastic with the children, explaining everything in a really understandable and fun way which generated plenty more questions and stories from the children, which is a sure sign of great teaching, in my opinion. Mini-beasts, birds and underwater creatures all feature in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (my sons have studied mini-beasts both at nursery and at school) so this is an ideal opportunity to either reinforce their knowledge and interest, or introduce them to the subject in a very hands-on, hugely entertaining way. And visiting our garden, and walking to Blantyre through the woodland made it an even greater adventure!
Nature Explorers at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre (meet in shop)
Every Tuesday during the summer holidays, 1.00pm – 2.30pm
£2.00 per child, adult supervisors free of charge (no need to have NTS membership or pay for entry to the museum).
Tel: 0844 93 2207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Leaflets on this, and other events at the David Livingstone Centre are available in the foyer of Bothwell Library, or see http://www.nts.org.uk
Every Tuesday 1.00pm – 2.30pm