Tom reflects on the day…
Most ecologists were inspired by someone to get involved with conservation and to engage with the natural world. For me, it was my grandmother, as well as the obligatory David Attenborough inspiration. Their influence (mostly my nan) sent me down an animal-centric route for my future career and led me to complete a BSc in Zoology and gradually make my way to a career in ecology: a happy medium between conservation and accepting that development in the current world is predominantly inevitable. Inspiring and engaging with children at a young age, to me, is a key tool in future conservation efforts, but also in a wider environmental awareness context.
At the school Adam and I started the day with other professionals at the front of an assembly hall with a lot of small faces looking up at us. We had props and the idea was that the kids guessed what we did. I wore a climbing harness, while Adam demonstrated some fluffy toy props, including a badger, a brown-long eared bat and a slightly rubbery newt. Guesses ranged from rock climbers to vets, but eventually we told them, “We are ecologists!” Slightly baffled looks came back so we explained that we look at plants and wild animals across the UK, sometimes in obscure places.
Next, we were sent to our individual classes bristling with nervous excitement. Nervous because communicating something to children aged 4–7 is a daunting prospect, but excited to share something we are so passionate about. We were equipped with a colourful PowerPoint presentation that included every child’s favourite topic – poo (badger and bat to be precise)! We explained how certain animals and plants are protected and that there are rules to say we must look after them. It was great to see the children’s eyes light up when they saw the variety of wildlife we have in the UK.
The children were a delight and surprised us with their knowledge and questions. The engagement within each class was great with games such as ‘find the bat roost’ and ‘what’s this reptile?’ going down a treat!
All in all, it was great to be able to engage with the kids. Inspiration is so important and I’d like to think at least a handful of the children will be inspired to pursue a career that engages with the natural world. They are the future and hopefully some of them will be inspired to protect the natural world in that future.