Learning in nature’s classroom

March 9, 2018 1:01 pm

With springtime just around the corner, 2018 is now well underway and so is our environmental education programme, Dinja Waħda. The nationwide initiative is carried out all across the Maltese Islands, helping to create more opportunities for children and young people to connect with nature and enabling them to gain all of the benefits that come with it! Whether it is enhancing their learning experience, developing their knowledge about the environment or even the possibility of improving their mental and physical health, Dinja Waħda has a series of creative and engaging activities designed to inspire students and teachers alike!

As a BirdLife Malta field teacher I work in the delivery of the secondary school programme, supported by our dedicated Dinja Waħda coordinators. Recently, whilst at a session at Dun Manwel Attard Young Adults Resource Centre at Wardija I saw how the humble Robin became a great inspiration for this school and their learning objectives.

BirdLife Malta Dinja Wahda

Learning about the Robin

Whilst discussing what activities to carry out at the beginning of the scholastic year, the Dinja Waħda coordinators could not help noticing the constant Robin calls from the surrounding trees and fields. This made the bird a natural choice for inclusion as a cross-curricular topic. School Coordinator Alessandra Azzopardi rolled out the school’s wealth of subject opportunities and a plan began to take shape. The little orange-breasted bird found its way into art, numeracy, music, science, design and technology, and independent living skills – leaving no subject untouched!

A visual presentation in the classroom was first in the programme to introduce the young adults to this much-loved bird. Their resourceful teacher had recorded the bird singing in the school grounds and as part of their music lesson, played the sounds back, first indoors, then in the grounds, gradually allowing the youths to experience the real calls in all of their glory!

A Robin taking shape in a maths class

Back in class, the Robin even appeared in a maths lesson, lending itself to rendering in triangles, circles and lines for the youths to draw, assemble and finally colour in. The cherry on the cake was the making of delicious treats during independent living skills lessons, where the young adults followed a recipe full of good fat and seeds for the hungry birds to enjoy. The birds invariably flew off when the cooks approached the bird tables – perfectly crafted during design and technology lessons – but swiftly returned to sample the fresh goods. The teachers then applied their attentive science observation skills to reveal the success of half-eaten cakes from the grateful bird table visitors!

The Young Adult Education Resource Centre at Wardija is a paragon of connecting youths to nature across the curriculum, deepening connections with the real world and care for nature. Thanks to the staff and administration’s dedication to delivering outdoor sessions on the extensive school grounds and turning nature into their very own classroom, the school is recognised as a Dinja Waħda gold award winner.

It is wonderful to see so many young people and teachers come together to learn from and enjoy all that nature has to offer as well as seeing the students grow in knowledge and confidence. Over the rest of the year, we will continue to work with schools like Dun Manwel Attard Young Adults Resource Centre, working to inspire generation of who will treat our planet responsibly and carry a strong connection to nature throughout their lives.

If you are interested in participating in the Dinja Waħda programme or would like to know more about the role of a Dinja Waħda schools coordinator, please visit here or email dinjawahda@birdlifemalta.org.

By Desirée Falzon, BirdLife Malta Field Teacher

Photos by Dun Manwel Attard YAERC