School Case Study
Tom Neusinger – Outdoor Learning Coordinator, Mill Water School, East Devon
What is your involvement?
I work as an Outdoor Learning teacher at Mill Water School. We moved from Honiton to a brand new building on the site of Bicton Agricultural College in 2015. The children (aged 3 to 19) have special educational needs. It’s very rural here which gives us all kinds of learning opportunities about the natural world. The children engage with this kind of learning very actively. The school was built with bat boxes included. It was curiosity over these that led us to the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project.
Why you are involved and what do you get out of it?
We realised that Bicton is important for bat activity and wanted to learn more about these amazing creatures. With support from Helen Parr we began working on the Bat Buddy Awards scheme. We wanted to develop our site in bat friendly ways, educate the children in the importance of healthy ecosystems and spread the word about the local greater horseshoe bats.
The high point of our involvement was Bat Week in which the whole school focused on learning about bats on many different levels. This included sensory stories in our makeshift bat cave, making bat boxes (real ones in the upper school and toast and chocolate spread in the lower school!). Every class visited Beer Quarry Caves and we had stories, games and art lessons all about bats. The children were excited to discover that they had achieved the Bat Buddy Silver Award in the process. Going for gold involved more sustained involvement.
We sold many of our Bat Boxes and insect hotels at the Christmas and summer fairs. We put bat boxes up around the school and have been sowing wildflowers and bat friendly plants. The children have developed an understanding of the concept of an ecosystem and how keeping individual elements healthy supports the whole system.
We were so proud when we achieved our Bat Buddy Gold Award and amazed to discover that we were the first school to do so. Children across our very diverse school were all able to engage with this truly multi-sensory topic. Many have a real understanding of the importance of maintaining diversity and healthy ecosystems. Support from the bat project was crucial to the success of our children in the Bat Buddy Award Scheme, I would recommend it to any school.