Special ‘presents’ for WildlifeKate!

As most of you will know, I am a teacher and my passion is sharing my enthusiasm for the natural world, with young people. I have been interested from when I was a small child and I know how important it is to have role models and other adults who showcase and share the joys of wildlife. Within primary, children seem to have a built-in fascination with nature and, if nurtured and encouraged, this will flourish. When I joined Michael Drayton Junior, very little was done in the outdoor spaces and children seemed to have little awareness of the wildlife all around them. In the last three years, I like to think that I have turned this around. ‘Wild Learning’ is a big part of what we do and it IS COOL to be interested in wildlife, to go birdwatching, to turn logs over and pick up worms! I have a ‘traditional’ Nature Table at school and the kids are always fascinated in it and the items on there. There range from bird nests, skulls, feather and all sorts of bits and pieces that the kids bring in, to add to it.Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 19.55.01 Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 19.55.15 Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 19.55.24 Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 19.55.32 Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 19.55.42

With a raised awareness, comes interest and this means that kids notice wildlife more…. and then bring me what they find! I often go into school on a Monday to be greeted by a kid with a box or container with a ‘goody’ inside! One child brought me this dried up newt she found…

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This week, I had two ‘gifts’!! The first was a wonderful skull! Libby, who brought it in, said they had been cleaning out their garage and they found it in a box. They had looked it up on the Internet and thought it might be a badger. I had never seen a badger skull before, but it certainly looked as if it could be. With Libby with me, I tweeted an image of it to Ben Garrod and Jake (of Jake’s bones) to see what they thought. Within a few minutes, they had kindly confirmed that this, indeed, was what it was. Libby and I were thrilled, especially as we then found out some other information as well….

Libby and I learnt that the skull has a very prominent ridge along the top. This is called the ‘Sagittal Crest’. This ridge is present in mammals with very strong jaws as the jaw muscles are fused onto this. The skull is very robust and feels a lot stronger than the similarly sized fox skull we have at school. The eye sockets are much smaller as badgers have very small eyes and relatively poor eyesight. One of the features we found most interesting is that the badger skull has a special hinge, known as ‘wrap-around’ articulation. This means that the lower jaw does not fall off of the skull as it does with other mammals, as the bones interlock. This badger does not have many teeth left, sadly.

We were very excited to find out so much about this interesting skull and then for the skull to go back on the Nature Table for others to see. We will do some labels to explain these interesting parts. We are getting quite a good selection of skulls now and they are always one of the most handled of items on the table… kids just LOVE them!

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I thoroughly recommend Jake McGowan-Lowe’s fantastic book, Jake’s Bones if you have a budding naturalist in your family…. or if you are interested. Also check out Jake’s incredible blog

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The second item I had brought to me this week was laid in a piece of kitchen roll in a shoebox. It is a lovely, almost complete, bird skeleton. Thank you to @MelanieGBones on Twitter who thinks it is a starling. This was found by a pupil when they were pulling out their fireplace to put in a wood burner! Instead of throwing this lovely skeleton away, he brought it into school to go on our nature table!

To me, the fact pupils are always bringing in interesting items and telling me about wildlife they have seen, footprints they have noticed or bird calls they have heard, confirms that what I am doing is making a difference…. and that is the most rewarding thing about teaching.