Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Kingfisher Awards

The Kingfisher Award Scheme provides primary school children with the opportunity to go onto farms to explore the natural world. It is very much a practical exploration, allowing them to touch, feel and see the relationship between food, farming and wildlife.

Each year, a number of primary schools attend a Field Day in June when they visit a farm. They take part in a number of activities, such as pond dipping, shearing and animal tracking, designed to give an understanding of how farming and wildlife are linked. Emphasis is placed on the food chain, ecosystems and life cycles within the natural environment. Experts are on hand to guide the children into discovering for themselves and to answer questions. The children are encouraged to use all their senses to understand and experience the countryside.

Back in the classroom the children do further research on the themes of the Field Day and prepare a display. This is a team effort that allows the children to develop ideas and explore their natural environment at school and at home. Even though all the children will have the same broad experience at the Field Day, it is fascinating to see how each school group is inspired in different ways and informed by different parts of the day. The freedom to explore themes in their own time makes it easier for teachers to blend the Field day experience with the classroom work going on in the summer term.

All of the schools are then invited back to the farm for a picnic where they present their displays to compete for the Kingfisher Trophy. The judges are a panel drawn from farming and wildlife backgrounds with whom the children discuss their work. The afternoon also includes activities such as making willow dragonflies or story-telling. At the end of the picnic, the judges have to make the unenviable decision to award the trophy to one winning school. It is a tense moment!
First launched in Devon by the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and friends in 1992, Kingfisher now works with around 800 children a year across four counties (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire). It is administered by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SouthWest).

For four years the Field Day was held at Alvediston, but this year it moved, with the kind permission and support of the Sykes family, to Norrington Manor. The picnic will be held at Fyfield Bavant where the Reis family throw open the barn doors for a day and welcome the children to the farm.
Here in Wiltshire, Kingfisher is run by enthusiastic volunteer Alastair Brown. He started the scheme some years ago as a result of seeing his brother do the same thing in Somerset. He had always had an enthusiasm for wildlife since a very early age and wanted to inspire the same thing in others. Alastair says, “I particularly liked the way that Kingfisher set out to achieve its aim of taking children onto farms and allowing them to discover the relationship between food, farming and wildlife.” He goes on to explain that, “It appealed to me, too, that the Kingfisher Award Scheme was entirely free to schools taking part, with the fundraising being my responsibility; particularly useful for smaller primary schools.  In my first year and subsequently, I also noted the enthusiastic responses from teachers whose classes had taken part, saying that their classroom preparation for the display had provided an excellent forum for a range of teaching subjects.”

The AONB Sustainable Development Fund provided the Wiltshire Kingfisher Awards with its first income of just £500. Since, then we have been privileged to support the scheme in any way we can.

This year, Alastair will be hanging up his wellies and handing over to FWAG South West’s Louise Kennedy who will be taking up the responsibilities for the Kingfisher programme in the future. If you would like to learn more about Kingfisher, or would be interested in your school getting involved, then you can contact Louise at louise.kennedy@fwagsw.org.uk