CLASSROOMS across the county will be turned into bird hides this month, with binoculars fixed to eyes and noses pressed eagerly against windows – all in the name of science!
The RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch runs from today (January 16) until January 30 and encourages children and their teachers to discover and learn about the birds that share their school environment.
Last year in West Sussex, 754 children and teachers from 30 schools took part in the survey.
The most common bird spotted was the starling with an average of 4.82 per school and the woodpigeon and blue tit completed the top three, with an average of 4.56 and 3.09 respectively.
This year, schools in Billingshurst, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, Lancing, Midhurst, Petworth, Pulborough, Steyning and Worthing have registered to take part.
As well as being a great way to get kids interested in nature and wildlife, the survey helps the RSPB build a picture of which birds are visiting school grounds across the UK and record how their numbers are changing.
Since its launch in 2002, more than 70 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows, to kestrels and even pheasants.
No birdwatching expertise is necessary for teachers, helpers or children and the RSPB has produced a free schools pack containing everything a teacher will need. The emphasis is on having fun and joining in. The pack includes guidance notes, a full colour bird identification poster, counting chart and survey form.
Don Fuller, the RSPB’s youth and education officer for south east England, said: “Wildlife is an unbeatable teaching resource. Colourful, attractive and abundant it can enthuse and inspire children - connecting them with the nature that lives alongside them everyday.
“Simple to set up, fun for children to do and offering a host of curriculum linked learning opportunities across all age ranges – Big Schools’ Birdwatch is something every school should participate in.
“Some schools make the activity the centrepiece of a whole week devoted to learning about wild birds, while others hold birdwatch breakfasts or after school wildlife clubs, there is plenty of flexibility built-in to run it as simply as teachers would like.
“All you need to do to take part is watch and count the birds in your school grounds for one hour, then send one set of results back to the RSPB telling us what you saw.
“Whether you have seen several exotic species or just a few of the commonest birds, it doesn’t matter – all sightings are useful to us!”
For further information about Big Schools’ Birdwatch, and to register for a free teachers’ pack, visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch or ring 0300 456 8340 (calls charged at standard rate). The hotline number will be operational until 30 January 2012.