Nature Schooling: Rainbows

Well, I didn’t get to deliver my activities on beetles in nursery this week as I tested positive for Covid so I have been isolating. I don’t seem to have suffered as badly as many accounts. My head has been hurting. I’ve been aching but not had a temperature, only coughing a little bit. So, it is worth getting tested even if you only show some symptoms.

But, while I haven’t got to teach the children in person we are still providing ideas for the parents home-learning. It’s uncertain exactly when I’ll be back at work but the next topi is rainbows. Of all the topics this has been the one I’ve had the least interest in. Alice, on the other hand, is very excited for rainbows. But to me, rainbows are just natural phenomenon. They serve no purpose, they do nothing, they just look pretty. So, I’ve invested more time into this one to look at exploring every possible avenue of rainbows as a topic to try and find a hook that engages me. It obviously lends itself to the teaching of colours but I wanted to find more opportunities.

Rainbows feature within folklore and the bible. In Norse mythology Bifrost, the burning rainbow bridge reaches from Earth to Asgard. Leprachauns gold can be found at the end of a rainbow. The rainbow bridge featured in poems in the 1980s and 90s as a route for deceased pets to go to a pet heaven. In Tibetan Buddhism the rainbow body is referred to as levels of realization. Since the 1970s it has been used as a symbol by the LGBTQ movement. Then in the last year it has been adopted by the NHS as a symbol of hope and the hard work they have done through the Covid pandemic. ‘The world made a rainbow‘ is one of the better stories I’ve found featuring rainbows and it supports the work of Save the Children.

Suggested books:

    • Planting a rainbow-Lois Ehlert
    • Elmer (and Elmer and the rainbow)
    • The rainbow fish
    • The world made a rainbow
    • The rainbow bear (ages 5-7)

Craft

Rainbows, as a topic, are obviously good for craft and artwork. Though more for home learning than in class. Trying to get 10+ children to make rainbows is not fun. It either ends up being too directed with a stressed out teacher or lots of colours mixed together or in the wrong place. While that has a great value for exploration, I like craft activities where the children can indepently achieve something that looks like what it is meant to be. But at home working one to one with Alice we have spent the last week making rainbows in just about every medium she can lay her hands on. She has painted them, used felt-tips, collaged, crayons, built from Lego, and even minature polymer clay rainbows.

We made rainbow paper chains and decorated the windows again to add a burst of cheer while we are isolating and to hopefully bring some cheer to people going past. It’s also ended up as a bit of local art display with a glass rainbow and knitted rainbow made my locals. The glass rainbow was dropped off with a tag for Alice. We still don’t know who kindly gave it to her. But I think it is the work of Jude Howe.

Sorting

With all the colours the rainbow topic lends itself well to sorting and pattern work. I have been painting wooden acorns to make a set of rainbow acorns. This seemed like it would be a nice activity to do with Alice to make a useful resource. However each has needed a few coats of paint and it’s been more of a faff.

But, she has a nice set for making patterns with. She is currently very keen on making symetrical patterns with them.

Having messed about with painting the acorns I decided to use felt tips to make a rainbow family to add to the objects to sort.

Science

I think one of my reasons for not liking the topic is that you can’t take the kids out and find a rainbow. Topics like the moon, birds and beetles I can pretty much guarantee we will find these things. However, rainbows I can’t make happen outside. So I’ve looked at the best of the home learning options for creating rainbows. Using a prism is pretty much the best way but a bit expensive for a one off.

CD’s and DVD’s have been the best I’ve found so far. By either letting the sun shine on the discs or using a torch you can create a rainbow in your own house. With a little bit of angling back and forth you can project a rainbow onto a wall or surface.

You can achieve different effects by placing the disc in water. You can then project the rainbow in the water.

We’ve also looked at felt-tip colours. Felt tip pen colours are made by mixing a number of colours to create the desired colour. You can separate the colours to see the different colours that have been mixed to make each pen. It’s a nice quick activity for discussing colour names and encouraging scientific enquiry.

You need:

    • Paper, coffee filters work well, kitchen roll, thick tissues and toilet roll can be used but are not quite as good.
    • Feltips
    • Bowl or cup of water

Place dots of pen or a line along the bottom of the paper.

Place the paper with the bottom in water. The water will soak up the paper spreading the pen ink as it rises.

The longer you leave the water to soak up, the more the colour separates. Discuss which colours you can see. Different colours will achieve different effects. Black works particularly well as this is often made by combining many colours.

Rainbow hunt

A good activity for inside or outside is a rainbow hunt. It’s a little tougher at this time of year outside but that fills a bit more time and we have no shortage of time currently. You can do it altogether looking for the colours or add an element of competition seeing who can find a colour first. I’ve been pretty lazy with this while recovering from Covid using Alice’s buns and sending her to find objects of the different colours.

Rainbow tree

A simple little threading activity I saw through Mud and Bloom to develop your child’s fine motor skills.

Collect sticks.

Wrap sticks with coloured string, hair bobbles, electrical tape.

Thread beads onto the branches being careful of the stick ends.

Display in a jar. I’ve used the jar we made for Diwali/the lightbringers as seemed appropriate for the activity.

I feel like I have fully explored the potential of this topic. Alice is still working on making rainbows in more formats. We are painting a wooden rainbow set and I may try and make a rainbow of butterflies ready for the next topic. But, I am feeling the rainbow fatigue. Hope you’ve enjoyed our rainbow explorations. And to finish a rainbow playlist. Rainbows are a lot more popular with song writers than beetles. No shortage of songs for this week.

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Nature schooling: nests

Next weeks topic in the forest school is nests. It’s a great topic with lots of possibilities. Nests are defined as “a bed or receptacle prepared by an animal and especially a bird for its eggs and young“. While we mainly think of birds with regards to nests there are many other nest making creatures.

One of the main books I’ll be using is A nest is noisy. It has beautiful illustrations and it also shows many different birds and animals that build nests.

 

The second story I will be using is bird builds a nest which is part of a series of books, “a first science storybook”. It’s a nice simple book that shows how the big builds a nest and also shows concepts such as big and little and heavy and light.

Chocolate nests

I only cover the two sessions in the nursery so I won’t have that many chances to teach different aspects of nests. I would like to do chocolate nests but I’m not sure I’ll get a chance as I don’t have the baking area this week. But I decided I would make some with Alice even if I don’t do them in school.

It has to be the easiest baking you can do with kids. I’m not sure if it even qualifies as baking it’s that simple. But it’s fun, the kids can do most of it themselves and you get something edible at the end. We made use of cornflakes and chocolate from the eco pantry. It is nice to use bran as it looks more like a nest, but I like to make use of the eco pantry. This is food that the supermarkets have rejected or is coming close to best before and they know it won’t sell. It cuts down food waste.

The chocolate was melted in the microwave giving us the chance to discuss changes of state. Alice took every opportunity fo spoon licking so we went through a lot of spoons making sure she didn’t double-dip.

The cornflakes are mixed in. A little chocolate goes a long way with these.

The mix was scooped into bun cases.

And an egg on the top of each one. We set them in the fridge which gives them a bit of crunch.

You don’t really get simpler cooking with kids but it keeps Alice’s attention as she gets to do most of the stages so I don’t need to interfere. Plus, we get an end result she actually wants to eat.

Playdough nests

Making playdough is pretty much part of most Early Years professionals skill set. You constantly replace it as kids use it, it gets too dirty, or in many cases gets eaten. Over the years I’ve picked up many different recipes for making different varieties and different activities to go with each. Making nests has been a regular activity over the years.

The basic recipe I use needs:

          • 1 Cup of salt
          • 2 Cups of flour
          • 2 spoons of cream of tartar
          • 1 spoon of oil
          • 1 cup of water

It all goes together in a bowl and gets mixed.

If it is too dry add a little water. If it is too wet add a little more flour. Carry on adding and mixing, then knead it into a ball to check the consistency and that it is mixed through.

For the nest, I collected a pile of sticks and animals that make nests. As I already said it isn’t just birds that nest. Tree frogs, alligators, orangutans, wasps, some beetles many animals make nests.

I test out lessons on Alice beforehand. She wanted to lay her sticks int the playdough very carefully comparing sizes.


And then some went around the outside before she decided who was going to nest in hers.

It’s a dead-simple activity but it’s nice and open-ended. Lots of opportunities for covering many areas of learning. Making the playdough has lots of science opportunities with changes of state and the maths side with the measuring. Then building the nest allows more opportunities for discussing the animals and creative play with playing with animals. Stories quickly emerge and characters develop.

Gardening

Next month many of the birds will start to collect material to build their nests. So to encourage the birds in we will put out some material for them to use. Many like to collect material from close to the nest site. So we can help by leaving piles of sticks, straw, wool and other nesting material. I use this strange hanging egg device to help. It can be stuffed with wool and the birds can pull bits off for their nests. I’ve not filled it yet as it’s still a bit early and I don’t want it getting wet.

 

Music

I like to plan in a few songs to go with each theme and usually aim to teach a new song. However, this week I think I’m going to stick with one most of the children will already know. Five little ducks is a popular one and we have the resources for me to place the toys in a nest to sing the song. There are other songs that actually mention nests but I like five little ducks.


Alongside the singing, I’ll be slipping in some bird song to listen to at some point during the week. Or I may just play it while we do some of the other activities.

 

I hope you are all managing well. If you are homeschooling don’t place too much pressure on yourself. Particularly if you are working from home alongside, you need to do your job to earn. You can’t do everything at once. Unprecedented times. I’m going to leave you with another playlist. Nests as a topic for music seem to largely be reserved for very herdy gerdy folk music of the sort in the first song from Morris on. So, I have extended the theme to bird songs.

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And an earworm to finish.

Nature schooling: Moon

So, schools have closed to children except a few, however, Early Years settings are still open for business as usual so I am still planning for next week’s topic ‘The moon’. Last week we looked at the rain and had great fun making our rain shakers. Alice gets to be the guinea pig for activities before I try them in school.

During the first lockdown, the full moons were fantastic. Our night sky by the coast is usually pretty clear but lockdown reduced pollution making it even clearer. Alice became very interested in checking out the phases of the moon and I became interested in the technical challenge of photographing the moon. Getting outside during the night is an adventure for children and brings new opportunities for seeing different birds and animals. At this time of year, you are unlikely to find the hedgehogs and bats but winter is a good time for spotting owls and foxes.

Though you don’t need an amazing camera to have fun photographing the moon. A lot can still be achieved with silhouettes.

One of the main books I’ll be making use of is Moon by Britta Teckentrup. I have reviewed it previously. It’s a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations to engage the children. It doesn’t really cover any factual details but it is a good book to inspire children’s questions. I will probably use Jilly Murphy’s Whatever Next where baby bear visits the moon. It is well used in education as it has so many possibilities to explore with kids. It’s a good start for box play to develop their imagination but can be used for lots of reasons.

Today we trialled making moon pictures to try and find something I can do with the kids in school. I’d seen a few ideas for foil printing pictures of the moon using crinkled foil to print texture. We started with a circle of paper for our moon and mixed back and white paint to make a grey.

We crumpled up tinfoil and pushed it around the bottom of a bottle. Then we pushed the tin foil in the paint and printed it onto our moon picture. We didn’t get enough texture. I may try experimenting with materials for printing. Maybe try cotton wool or sponges. When printing in school, there will be some children who meticulously dab the paint while there will be others who smear the paint all over. It’s all good exploration with paint and learning how paint can be used.

Alice wanted to do some stars for a background so she dabbed some dots for stars.

And one assembled.

Alice wanted to carry on and make a few more phases of the moon.

I have two sessions to cover so I’ll need to come up with another idea for the second session but this is a good start. I’ve got a vague idea that I can use a torch and a jamjar lid to demonstrate the phases of the moon but I will need to play with this idea to make it practical. The kids quite enjoyed the rain sounds last week and the rain playlist last week. So I might make a moon playlist for this week. It’s tempting to just play the whole of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon but there is no shortage of moon songs across many genres and cultures. Just have to check the lyrics to make sure they are appropriate. I hope you are all keeping well and those of you homeschooling and working are managing to balance both without putting too much pressure on yourselves to achieve miracles. Enjoy the rest of your weekends!

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12 Days Wild: day 11-rain

Today, I returned back to work. It’s been a training day so no kids today. The debate of whether the kids should come back is still going on but we will still be open to vulnerable children and key worker children I imagine whatever is decided. I’ve got a good term ahead of nature topics seeds, nests, beetles and more. Lots I can get my teeth into. Our theme for this week is rain.

There are lots of lovely rain stories for young children but one of my favourites is rain by Sam Usher. It’s part of a series of four books that look at weather through the seasons. In rain, the boy and his grandad put off going outside because of the rain. Eventually, they go out in the rain anyway and have a wonderful adventure. It’s a great story pushing not putting your life on hold because of the weather.

A more recent addition is Felix after the rain. This is more of a metaphorical story with Felix dealing with the death of his grandma and taking on lots of negative emotions. He learns to deal with these emotions and regain his balance.

At some point during the week in my cover sessions, I’d like to look at just listening to the sound of the rain. I reckon we will have some actual rain but if we don’t recordings of rain have still been found to improve mood and it one study arithmetic ability. Although, they do point out the fact that the sound was rain may not be significant. Either way, it’s a calming sound for a calm classroom.

Alongside this, we’ll probably have a go at doing some bottle rainmakers like I did with Alice yesterday.

Very easy craft, One bottle wrapped in masking tape to make it easier to draw on.

We just used felt-tips as I wasn’t looking to spend a long time on it, but you could paint instead.

Alice drew herself, a butterfly and a tree. She is getting more particular thinking about colours for the tree.

It’s nice to make a few filled with different materials for different sounds: rice, beads, pasta, nuts and bolts, etc. Alice was very happy with hers.

 

And as a bonus today, a rain playlist of songs both positive and negative about rain.

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12 Days wild: day 1

Today is the start of the Wildlife Trusts 12 Days wild initiative. In the dark days after Christmas, many peoples moods drop with Christmas done and the dark days. 12 days wild aims to get people involved in nature. They share some ideas on the website and some more if you register. I’ve taken part the last two years and I’ve found it nice to take part in some of the activities to give focus to the holidays. It helps get us outside and create lasting memories in nature. If you’ve got bored children it can give some ideas or if you’re just feeling down it can help. You can take part through social media with the hashtag #12dayswild There is a great online nature community there supporting each other.

Today was obviously a busy day with Christmas. We have had a lovely day and I may talk more about our day in a future blog but I’m going to focus on our 12 days wild today. There wasn’t much time to get outside but I did pop out first thing to top up the bird feeders and crack the ice on the birdbaths. As the weather gets colder and natural food sources scarcer the feeders see more visitors. The birdbath has seen many birds gathering today as they may not have been able to access many of their usual water spots.

Apart from that and trips to the compost heaps, the day has largely been spent inside. I am not going to go through everything we received but I will share a few of the nature-themed presents we received. Amy was given this beautiful bee decoration from my parents. She is becoming a bit of a crazy bee lady. In her younger years, she amassed a collection of cat ornaments. Now people seem to want to get her bees. Possibly after our wedding. But she got a good few bee gifts for her birthday earlier in the month and she got a few more today.

This is a gift I bought for Alice. There are several nature-themed bingo sets by the same company but I liked the look of this one. It’s a simple enough game for a 4-year-old while also teaching us the names of many bugs. It should make for a good act of wild even if we are stuck in.

My Aunty Dot works for Bodleian publishing so I received these gorgeous books. I had seen she’d been involved with the gin book. Chris’s illustrations are stunning I have a few of his other books and this looks like a nice one for dipping into. The bird anthology has a great mix of excerpts and poetry for flicking through. Some nice winter nature reads.

And Amy treated me to a Stanley flask. However, she didn’t realise she had bought XXL so she bought me a smaller thermos for smaller outings. These will be great for our walks for filling with tea and soup. Our current ones just didn’t keep the heat whereas the Stanley ones are rated as some of the best. It doubles as a bludgeon in a survival situation. It is pretty solid. I may need a bigger rucksack to go with it.

We have been very fortunate to still have a lovely Christmas this year, even if we can’t see family. But we would rather leave family safe than expose them to risk when we may have a vaccine in the not-so-distant future. We have had good quality family time in our household. Playing games, sharing Alice’s toys and building things. Each year I always end up reflecting on how lucky we are, but we are. We live in a lovely community in a gorgeous area. We are very blessed. Hopefully, over the next 11 days, I can share some of the wild acts we do as part of 12 days wild. Here is one final picture of Alice hiding in her new den building set.

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30 Days Wild: Day 25-Princess Poppy saves the bees

Today I left a surprise for Alice to find by the front door.

I’ve been meaning to get Alice this book for a while as she has a number of the Princess Poppy picture books. I’d seen Janey Louise Jones had written several Poppy stories with an environmental theme to them and 30 Days Wild seems like a perfect time to get hold of one of them for her.

The book tells the story of how Princess Poppy learns about the disappearance of the bees. It explains a few differences between honey bees and bumblebees. Then it goes into detail of a few things the girls in the story can do to help. The girls arrange to dress as bees for the Summer fair to let people know how they could help bees. It’s an ideal story for using in schools to teach a few basic facts about bees or introduce a science topic. or as a story to enjoy with a child at home. Alice sat and listened well and had lots of interesting questions and observations as we went through it.

One of the suggestions of how to help is to make a bee bath. A shallow tray of water can give thirsty insects a spot to drink without drowning. Then a few stones ensure they have places they can crawl in if they get stuck.

We set it up on the bench near the borage where lots of the bees are visiting.

Then Alice went looking for bees and trying to snap them.

Amy has borrowed one of the more high powered cameras from school to see how much of a difference it makes to the photos having something higher spec. It really did improve the quality of what we could achieve but we can’t afford a swisher camera yet, so just enjoy for a few days.

My camera is a Nikon D3100 which is a decade old. I can manage reasonable photos but nothing too impressive.

And a photo to make Princess Poppy smile.

And a few taken on the fancier camera.

A hoverfly on the lychnis.

Alice went on to tell Amy different bits she’s learnt from the book and she was telling me the bees in the park were bumblebees. And she asked for her new book at bedtime. There is another environmental-themed Poppy story on ‘no plastic‘. We normally do a beach clean as part of our 30 Days Wild. However, with lockdown, we haven’t been going to the beach as much. At the start of lockdown, there wasn’t any rubbish with few visitors whereas now there is a mass of rubbish. But we don’t Alice touching things handled by other people so we’ll have to leave this activity until it’s a bit safer. For now, we’ll concentrate on making our garden a paradise for wildlife.

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Book Review: The complete guide to garden privacy-Alexandra Campbell

Alexandra put out a call for reviews of her first book last week, so in the interest of disclaimer, I have been sent this to review. That said, I was excited to see what she had to say. Alexandra’s website, The middle-sized garden, contains blogs and videos sharing many useful gardening tips. She has written for many magazines and newspapers: the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and more. Her blog has won many awards over the last few years.

The book is available through Amazon:

Paperback priced £14.36 at time of writing.

Kindle Priced £7.83 or free with Kindle unlimited.

From the blurb:

Find out how to make your garden feel private, no matter how small it is. This book will help you choose the right trees for privacy, find out which hedges are best for privacy, how to select a new garden privacy screen and how to screen eyesores. Create a secret garden or help minimise noise in your garden. Expert tips and advice from The Middlesized Garden, a top award-winning garden blog from the UK.The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy offers practical solutions with easy-to-read diagrams and inspiring photographs of real gardens.

So, this book couldn’t really come at a more opportune moment. With many us contained within our homes and gardens, more people are looking at spending their lockdown time in their gardens. Across the country, people have been discovering gardening for the first time. This is in many ways a fabulous development, gardening brings so many benefits, both physical and mental. But, it means the volume level has gone up. In many gardens, the privacy level is low as the gardens haven’t previously been used. So people are hastily trying to renovate their gardens to make them better spaces. Prior to my work closing, we were seeing good sales in fencing equipment as people looked at upgrading and fixing their existing screens. But there are many ways to add privacy to your garden that this book explores.

Trees can block line of sight to upper store windows

The book covers some basic principles of privacy asking you to think about which key areas do you want to be private. Within a row of gardens, it is almost impossible to make your garden completely private but if you identify key areas you can work to give yourself a secluded area. You may not need the privacy all year round. It may just be that you want privacy in summer when you will be out more. This opens up more seasonal options allowing for light to still reach your house in winter.

A parasol provides privacy from windows

Many of the options discussed are pretty obvious. Hedges and fences can be used to block views. But Alexandra goes into the extra detail of discussing the legal aspects such as where planning permission is needed. Plant lists are included for evergreen and deciduous options. The book makes use of nice clear diagrams throughout to illustrate the points she is making in the text. For example, for a seating area, you don’t necessarily need a high screen. An obstacle of 1.5m will hide you to people when you are sat. This is shown clearly through the diagrams and explanations. Screens, trellis, structures are discussed. A chapter is devoted to privacy in the front garden looking a few different ways I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about to add privacy such as window boxes.

A wall can provide privacy and block some noise.

The final chapter was particularly interesting and relevant right now looking at noise and wind. The wind can carry noise a long way. Alexandra looks at the way sound is carried by the wind over obstacles and discusses ways to increase your privacy.

Euonymus blocking line of sight to the eyesore of the compost heap

 

Overall this is an informative read. I devoured it over two days back and I’m sure I will return to look up aspects again. Anyone who reads her blog will know, Alexandra writes clearly, concisely and presents a lot of information within a relatively small book. It has made me look at the privacy in my own garden differently. I am starting to think out how I can add some extra seclusion to particular areas. I would recommend this book if you have issues with neighbours overlooking your garden or if you are looking at ways you can change your boundaries. This book will show lots of options for making your garden into your own secluded paradise.

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Nature Book Club: Review-A nest is noisy

This week for Nature Book Club I’m returning to look at children’s books. A nest is noisy is a beautifully illustrated book written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. They have worked on a number of books together such as an egg is quiet, a seed is sleepy and a beetle is shy. The book covers many animals that live in nests. Nests aren’t just for birds. Through this book, children can learn about the nests of birds, orangutans, tree frogs, prairie dogs and more.

Each page gives a statement such as a nest is welcoming, then many of the pages have additional information to read if you wish. Children do enjoy non-fiction of this nature. They like facts and knowing details. It’s a book which will lead to more questions encouraging an enquiring mind.

The book is great for developing children’s vocabulary introducing them to technical language in an approachable way. The children learn the names of a number of animals including some more unusual ones.

I’d recommend this book for parents or teachers as a useful tool for widening children’s ideas of how animals live. My favourite book this pair have made together is probably A beetle is shy, but this one probably has a more wide-reaching appeal.

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Nature Book Club: Review-Kathleen Jamie Findings

This week I finished reading Kathleen Jamie’s Findings. I’ve seen this book recommended regularly over the last few years and thought I’d give it a try as it was priced at 99p. Primarily known for her poetry this is a collection of writings covering nature, landscape and history. There is no particular running theme through them apart from taking pleasure in much of the natural world.

The prose has been very well written. The descriptions of her subjects are very evocative taking you along for the journey. The chapters each cover a different subject. We see descriptions of peregrines, of salmon, Neolith cairns, anatomical museums, whale watching and more. The book is fairly short and could be read over a few nights or as each chapter is separate dipped in and out of. Some people might find this a bit annoying. You have no running theme more extended pieces of journalism. This is not writing to inform you. You will find no great factual depth. But each chapter is well written, contemplative and enjoyable enough to lose yourself in. I would possibly have been disappointed in this if I’d paid full price but at 99p it was an enjoyable read over about two hours. I would be willing to try her other books or her poetry.

 

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Nature Book Club: Review-Get your Boots On

This week for Nature Book Club I’d like to take a look at a book I’ve been sent from another Nature Book Club contributor, Alex White. For those of you who don’t know, Alex is and up and coming naturalist. He’s been blogging about nature since he was 13. He is part of many nature groups including a focus on nature, the youth network for connecting young people interested in nature. In 2016 he appeared on Springwatch Unsprung and I do actually remember the segment despite this being before I discovered Alex’s blog. Chris Packham critiqued Alex’s photos. Anyone who knows the Springwatch photo segments will know Chris can be quite harsh in his comments, but he was very supportive, he did critique but was encouraging offering constructive advice. Alex has continued with his blog and working with different nature organisation. Then last year he released his first book, ‘get your boots on‘.

I am not necessarily the key target audience for this book as it is largely geared towards offering advice and support on gaining pleasure in nature to young people. That said, I’ve devoured the book over the last week. The book is split into advice on getting interested and getting out, making connections, gadgets and technology, get competitive, juggling wildlife and your life, activism, next-generation and be open to advice. You’ve got great advice that you can see has come out of Alex’s own experiences. The advice is wide-ranging there are tips on kit, photography, nature groups, exams and lots on being comfortable with yourself. Much of the advice most people learn the hard way such as don’t wear shorts on fieldwork. But here it is offered up for young people to avoid.

From such a young writer you will see many of the reviews of this book using words such as ‘inspirational’, ‘poignant,’ and ‘wonderful’. But these words all fit. This book would have been nice to have when I was a teenager, though I may not have listened to the advice as I was too wrapped up in music obsessions arguing with people over the merits of Black Sabbath and The Smiths and the lack of merit in listening to Coldplay. But we are now living in a period where young people are making their voices heard. The younger generation are very aware of the damage that has been done to our world and want to see changes. Having a book like this written by someone so young is great for showing anyone can make a difference. It is certainly filling a gap in the nature book market as there is no shortage of books aimed at younger children.

The book itself is a nice glossy paperback filled with photos, many taken by Alex himself. Having read it cover to cover I can dip and out finding lots worth rereading. The text is interspaced with sections from his blog and guest contributors adding their advice. Alex has drawn on an amazing list of contacts who add their words of wisdom. Chris Packham, Mark Avery, Dominic Dyer, Anneka Svenska, Kate MacRae and so many more.

It has inspired me to get my trail camera out again. I haven’t set it up in a while apart from just to see if the hedgehogs are visiting the garden. I haven’t seen any signs this year but I live in hope of them returning. My trail camera is just a cheap one from Aldi bought on sale at £15. They usually start from £30 up these days. The better quality ones can capture amazing footage but even a cheap one like this can show you what is in your garden. It gave me and the in-laws great pleasure seeing the badgers in their garden.

I wasn’t expecting to see them this time of year but we did have a few visitors.

Alex is fortunate to have many people around him providing him with great chances to get out in nature. But I get the feeling he knows how lucky he is to have had so much support at such a young age. One lesson I’m taking from the book is to take the opportunities on offer.

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