login | contact us

Biodiversity

School grounds provide an ideal opportunity to introduce children to the natural environment and to biodiversity in a practical way. They offer a safe and potentially exciting facility for outdoor education that can complement classroom-based activities.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity provides direct links to the curriculum, providing knowledge, skills and understanding across the key stages in the following areas:

  • Life processes
  • Humans and other animals
  • Green plants
  • Variation and classification, inheritance and evolution
  • Living things in their environment

Pupils learn that the variety of plants and animals that exist makes it important to identify them and assign them to groups; that different plants and animals are found in different habitats; that habitats support a diversity of plants and animals that are all interdependent; that the distribution and relative abundance of organisms in habitats can be explained using ideas of interdependence, adaptation, competition and predation.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity - or “biological diversity" is the amazing variety of all living things on our planet - from plankton, wildflowers and insects to mammals, reptiles, trees and birds. It also applies to the habitats in which these living things are to be found - oceans, woodlands, meadows and wetlands, as well as man-made places such as fields, parks and canals. Even so-called ‘wasteland’ can be a rich source of biodiversity.

Why is biodiversity so important?

Biodiversity is essential because it impacts on all of our lives, both directly and indirectly.

All species, including humans, require a range of basic resources to keep them alive and healthy. Humans need oxygen to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and shelter from the weather. The living things on our planet provide many of these things for us, so their conservation is vital if we are to survive.

Preserving planet Earth's biodiversity is also essential because:

  • no-one knows just what other benefits may be lost when species become extinct or what impact this will have on other species or habitats.
  • healthy natural ecosystems help control flooding, drought and soil erosion.
  • the quality of our lives is greatly enriched by the natural environment
  • all species have as much moral right to exist as humans.

Human life itself depends on the relationships between all living creatures and their environment, yet a lot of human activity is having a negative impact on biodiversity across the world. In the UK, the growth of urban development, intensive farming methods, the introduction of non-native species, transport and pollution has led to huge habitat and species decline and in some cases, extinction. The need to restore this 'balance of nature' has never been so urgent.

What can schools do?

Raise awareness throughout the school

Biodiversity has connections with all the different environmental strands that, drawn together, characterise a healthy and caring Eco School. An Eco-School can care for biodiversity in several ways:

  • By showing positive attitudes and values for the health and well-being of local habitats, plants and animals, as well as humans.
  • By encouraging the use of the outdoors to teach and learn about biodiversity.
  • By making choices that affect the use of natural resources.
  • By aiming to reduce its global footprint on habitats and species, both locally and globally.
  • By contacting one of our delivery partners

Link biodiversity work to the curriculum

School grounds provide an ideal opportunity to introduce children to the natural environment and biodiversity. They offer a fantastic facility for outdoor education that can complement classroom-based activities. Nature areas within a school's grounds can add greatly to this.

In addition to curricular links, biodiversity work can also offer pupils the opportunity to assist with the provision of reliable, quality data on habitats and species that is crucial to national and local biodiversity action planning.

Hedgehog Campaign

In the 1950's it was estimated there were 36.5million hedgehogs in Britain. It seems likely that there are now fewer than a million hedgehogs left.  The biggest threats to hedgehogs are:

  • habitat loss, particularly the removal of hedgerows over the last 30 years
  • the use of chemicals in gardens and for intensive farming which kills the creatures hedgehogs need for food and may also poison them directly
  • death on the roads

Hedgehogs prefer woodland edges, hedgerows and suburban habitats where there is plenty of food for them.  Hedgehogs are very much a gardener’s friend as their diet includes many garden pests including slugs, snails and mice.

Hedgehogs hibernate every year, usually from about November to around Easter, but this is much affected by the weather. Hedgehogs normally wake up several times over winter and often build a new nest made of leaves, tucked under a bush or log pile or garden shed, anywhere that offers support and protection.

We can help give hedgehogs a home in gardens by taking some of these simple steps:

  • Leave food out for them at night - dog/cat food is ideal but not bread and milk. Hedgehogs are one of the few animals that eat banana so if you leave this out and it disappears, you can be fairly certain that you have a hedgehog
  • Be prepared to leave a small part of your grounds to go wild. Long grass, log/leaf piles and undergrowth provide foraging and nest places for the perfect hedgehog habitat
  • Alternatively you can easily build a ‘hedgehog hotel’ – a simple wooden box design with entrance holes and a watertight lid makes the perfect home for them
  • Be careful with strimmers which cut back rank vegetation in the very places hedgehogs lie up during the day, causing serious wounds to the sleeping animals
  • Make sure you leave small gaps at the bases of solid fences and walls as these restrict a hedgehog’s movement through gardens
  • Hedgehogs can swim but often drown in ponds because of their steep and slippery sides. Provide them with an escape route - a piece of wood, chicken wire or pile of stones
  • Bonfires make good places for hedgehogs to nest. Check them to make sure a hedgehog has not made its nest before lighting

Download this lovely information leaflet on Hedgehogs

Please also take a look at this useful resource on how to detect hedgehogs.


Junior Pollinator Plan - help save our bees.

The Junior Pollinator Plan, presents ideas on bee conservation for a younger audience in a fun, easy to understand way. It encourages children to look at how they can help safe guard against the demise of bees in Ireland and will help children understand the importance of bees to our world and empower them to take action to help safeguard our pollinators. Click here to download the resource.

Further information

Lots of Eco-Schools choose to address biodiversity as part of their Action Plan. Visit the Case Studies section for more details. It’s also worth visiting the Delivery Partners and Outdoor Learning sections for further information on how to increase biodiversity within your school grounds. The importance of Learning Outside the Classroom cannot be overestimated, and biodiversity offers valuable ways to engage young people in their local environment, providing a much more creative and stimulating learning environment.

Does your school have a great idea for encouraging or monitoring biodiversity? If so, why not tell us about it? Contact us and we will share it with our network of Eco-Schools.