The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust in Scotland has a small budget for education. Doing our bit to connect youngsters with the countryside is important alongside other organisations like the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative (RNCI) and LEAF Open Farm Sunday.
As we move towards more environment focused farming support, not just food, that brings more challenges in the messages we need to put across to the next generation.
Planting crops for wildlife and insects, beetle banks, field margins, hedges, farm woodlands, ponds and wet areas will be more significant. Farmers won’t just be looking over the dyke at what their neighbour is doing but will, we hope, work together in clusters to deliver better, broader results. Not just conserving the birdlife and wildlife that we have but enhancing it. Songbirds, small mammals, bees, insects, invertebrates and game species all matter, as does the habitat that allows them to thrive.
Through our education programme we have organised school outings to our Partridge demonstration site in the Lothians. Past projects have included schools planting hedges and creating new habitats, and visits have been organised as prizes for our art competitions with farm owners and staff telling the children about why they manage the land for wildlife and birds.
Our annual schools’ art competitions stimulate youngsters’ creativity. Running in Perthshire, Angus and Aberdeenshire and dating back 15 years we’ve worked with many sponsors and education authorities across primary and secondary levels asking youngsters to depict different species of game and wildlife. Whilst Covid did its best to derail our competitions in 2020 a well-supported event still ran in Aberdeenshire and we hope to launch the programme once again in all local authority areas that have supported us so far.
And at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair, running this year from September 24-26 at Scone Palace, our educational presence will be strong as ever in our central area with storytelling, hands-on science, arts and crafts, and bugs and beasties for all young, budding ecologists.
Education doesn’t stop with youngsters. Covid has drawn more visitors into the countryside and there are many messages that are important – about livestock, litter, ground nesting birds, dogs, the access code, and more generally that we need an environment that lets our wildlife prosper and where those who manage the land can go about their business. We all have a responsibility to play our part and GWCT is proud to play its part too.
For farms able to host visits or schools interested in finding out more about our art competitions or farm visits please get in touch [email protected]
Iona Laing, Education and Events Officer, GWCT Scotland