It isn’t only children who attend a Durham primary school – lots of wildlife call in too! From hares to foxes, hedgehogs to a variety of birds, they have all been captured on a wildlife camera at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School. The Shotton Colliery school has been involved in a year-long project with the British Ecology Society (BES) called Connecting Schools to Nature.

The school’s science lead and Year 3 class teacher, Adam McPhail, explained: “This project is a citizen science project, aiming to help children reconnect with, understand, and support their local environment. As part of this project, we have received equipment to use in our school grounds, such as a trap camera. We have submitted over 3,500 images of animals in our school environment, including deer, foxes, hares, hedgehogs and a wide variety of birds.

The project has really captured the children’s imaginations and sparked a passion for science.

I have loved learning about all the animals that use our school,” said Olly Whitehead, eight, a Year 3 pupil.

The school has won several awards for its participation in the project, including silver awards for its module on birds. “We made bird feeders to use on our site to encourage birds and have gathered nesting material (grass cuttings, sticks and hay) for birds to use when making their nest,” added Mr McPhail. “We also won the 2023 Trap Camera Competition for submitting the most photos from a school trap camera. Our prize is a £100 voucher to further improve our school grounds for wildlife. We have also secured an additional £400 worth of funding through the project, which we are hoping to use to create a wildflower area in our school to provide an area for pollinators.”

The project has had a big impact on the schoolchildren. “Our children are more engaged with local environmental issues and have a greater awareness of the local environment,” he added. “The children have loved using the camera particularly, as they love seeing what animals have been visiting our school. We have been using resources from BES to identify the animals that we have captured on our camera. It has also given our older children an understanding of the real-world work that scientists and ecologists do, and we are hoping they will be inspired to take part in citizen science projects in the future.

Alexa Roditi, outreach project assistant for the British Ecological Society, said: “All of their efforts have certainly paid off, with the school reaching bronze and silver awards for their work on the invertebrates and birds modules respectively. On top of that, Our Lady of Lourdes won our 2023 camera trapping competition for the most footage captured by a school! We’ve loved having the school onboard and can’t wait to see what they get up to next on their connection to nature journey.

Mr McPhail added: “Staff and students have benefitted from taking part in the BES project as we have all greatly increased our understanding of the life around us and what we can do to help. The children have taken a lead on this, for example making and distributing bird feeders around our school site.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Shotton Colliery

For more information about BCCET, please visit www.bccet.org.uk.