Autumn surveys at the Springfield project

A groups of families carried out the OPAL ‘Bugs Count’ survey at The Springfield Children’s Centre in Birmingham on 24th October 2012. The group walked to a local green space to search for bugs in different habitats. Both parents and children enjoyed looking under logs and stones to see what they could find and then used brushes and trays to get a sample of bugs living in the trees and bushes. This proved a successful activity to carry out in the autumn months in this urban area of Birmingham.

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OPAL at Bushy Park

FSC London will be running FREE sessions at Bushy park for local schools to bring small groups of KS2 or KS3 students to complete OPAL surveys. Bushy park has fantastic facilities for outdoor work and it will be  a great opportunity for local schools to visit and discover wildlife in their local area.

The ‘Our water – our future’ project at Nunnery Wood, Worcester

A group of pupils from Nunnery Wood High School in Worcester carried out some of the OPAL Water survey activities as part of the ‘Our water – our future’ project that they are involved in. The project is being run by Worcestershire county council and the environment agency to monitor the water quality of local brooks and streams. A group of 12 students walked down to Bow Brook and took a sample of water, measured the pH, water flow and took a sample of invertebrates living in the stream. The main invertebrates found in the water were water shrimps. Although sampling time was limited all students got involved with the water monitoring activities and collected information that can be built on in the future.

Heald Place, Rusholme – Branching out

Heald Place have received a number of outreach sessions to carry out the OPAL Bugs Count survey within their school grounds. Although they have limited green space, they have made the most of their surroundings and have always been enthusiastic about learning outside the classroom. In addition to OPAL survey activities the school requested to do a plant survey at the school to help them work towards their ‘Wildlife in Action’ awards. The pupils used handmade quadrats to sample the area and identify common plants using the FSC’s ‘Playing field plants’ guide. They also looked out for Fruits and seeds and thought about how they might be dispersed. The school has achieved their silver ‘Wildlife in Action’ award and are working towards their gold award. Getting involved with OPAL has also added to their Eco School work for which they have just achieved their Green flag status.

Bubblemania at Blessed Edward’s

A total of 9 different classes from KS3 and 4 carried out the OPAL Climate survey over 2 days on 8th and 9th October 2012. It was very wet and cloudy but the bubble tracking activity worked well to measure wind direction. Pupils also measured the temperature and recorded their thermal comfort. The playground was alive with bubbles throughout those two days highlighting that the OPAL Climate survey provides fun activities that encourage outdoor work whatever the  weather.

Soil and earthworms at Southall

Two classes from Southall School in Telford carried out the Soil and Earthworm survey on Thursday 4th October 2012. We started off by looking at earthworms in the classroom before heading out to search for earthworms in the soil. Both groups did brilliantly well at sorting and counting the worms and recording their colour. The final part of the activity was focusing on soil and carrying out a variety of tests including colour, smell and texture.

Fun on the farm at Fordhall

Shropshire Home Education group carried out the OPAL Biodiversity survey at community owned Fordhall Farm on Tuesday 18th September. This was the first OPAL survey the groups had done and they all enjoyed the variety of activities which looks at hedgerow structure, food for wildlife and the animals that make their homes in the hedge. The group have gone on to do the Soil and earthworms, Climate and Air surveys at the farm. Although bitterly cold during their last meeting on December 4th the group did well hunting for lichens on the trees around the farm. One child spotted a tiny pink lichen dotted around the ash tree that we sampled (pink earth lichen – Dibaeis baeomyces). The main lichens we found were the nitrogen tolerant lichens Xanthoria and Physcia but we also found some of the nitrogen sensitive Evernia on trees further into the forest. The groups are keen to try more OPAL activities at the farm in the new year.