On a mild and slightly damp day in November there were introductions and gearing up for an exploration of the wood near the school to look for wild things, especially invertebrates. The group consisted seven children from P4-P7, their teacher, an adult helper and his cousin and spouse. The group were working towards their John Muir Awards and learning about wild places. A small wood close to the school and a housing scheme led us to Lord Ancrum's Wood. The Edinburgh Natural History Society had a fungus foray there, led by Stephan Helfer, on the occasion of the Society's 150th anniversary at Newbattle Abbey College. Our first stop was to look at a large, well-rotted log in the small wood near the school. Straight away an overwintering 10-spot ladybird and a hawthorn shieldbug were found and then re-hidden. Typical winter invertebrates on that log were centipedes, woodlice and a millipede. Candle snuff fungus was identified by one of the children. In Lord Ancrum's Wood mosses and ferns were pointed out, but invertebrates were more exciting. A beetle larva found and carefully picked up by one of the boys, had six legs and jaws. The big disappointment was the signal to return to school. On the last stretch I pointed out some orange ladybirds that I had noticed on the way out, and one girl soon found an overwintering cluster and a total of 36. After a quick chat about collective terms I informed them that you get a 'loveliness of ladybirds'. Our two hour session whizzed by aided by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the children. There was confident use of terms like species and conservation, along with sharing about their own experiences. The John Muir Award is about wild places and nature, which gives people the opportunity to get to know and understand wild places in their own localities, and to share their experiences with others. Have a look at the website and see if your local primary school would like to have adults to share their love of the outdoors. Some schools have other activities, like Eco Clubs, where adult support is appreciated. Say 'yes', I'm sure you won't regret it.
www.johnmuirtrust.org/award-criteria-and-levels Photo: Sarah Adamson