Little Laney Parkhouse’s eyes light up when her teacher tells her class they are going outside to take photographs of wild garden birds.
Five year-old Laney is one of 42 children at Groarty Integrated P.S. who are all taking part in an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) photo competition.
“I love all of the birds. They make me laugh and the way they eat all of the seeds and worms is so funny,” says Laney smiling.
Local horticulturist, Gareth Austin and well known amateur wildlife photographer, Christine Cassidy, who facilitate the project, arrived Groarty Integrated P,S, on Tuesday morning.
Gareth advises the school’s staff and pupils on the best plants and shrubs to attract birds whilst Christine, whose recent photograph of a Egret spotted in St. Johnston was published in ‘Birdwatch’ magazine, helps them to take the best possible photographs.
“It’s a great project for the children to be involved in,” says primary school teacher Mrs. Karen Brown.
“All of the 42 children at this school are so passionate about wildlife and they look forward to seeing Gareth and Christine every week.
“The children are able to tell their Blue Tits from their Robins and they love getting outside.
“It’s important that children of all ages are able to experience learning outside of the classroom in a structured environment because not only are they having fun but they are developing their knowledge and learning new skills.”
Five year-old twin brothers, Finn and Torin Donnelly, fancy themselves as budding ornithologists.
Finn’s favourite bird is a Robin whilst Torin’s is a Magpie; both boys enjoy sitting in class and watching the birds feed on the carefully placed fat balls just outside their classroom window.
“I love the wee birdies,” says Finn.
“I would really like to fly like a bird someday - I think I’d be really quick - just like a Robin.”
Torin says that he is looking forward to entering the competition and believes that he can win.
“I can’t wait to take a photograph of the Magpie - I like him because he’s black and white.
“I’ve been listening to everything Christine has told us and I know I will be able to take the best pictures,” he smiles.
Gareth Austin is a well known local horticulturist and he has advised the school on the best ways to attract garden birds to their feeders and bird tables.
Gareth said that the RSPB competition gave young people at the school the chance to get out of the classroom and learn all about the environment that surrounds them.
“Groarty Integrated P.S. is such a progressive school when it comes to the environment and wildlife.
“Not only are the school taking an active interest in wildlife but they also take part in regular clean-ups of their school and the surrounding areas.
“Each and every child at this school will get the chance to enter the RSPB wildlife competition and I have no doubt that, with the help of Christine Cassidy, the children will be in with a great chance of winning.”
Anna McCloskey is just as passionate about birds as the rest of her class. Five year-old Anna’s favourite bird is a Blue Tit and she says that when she’s not at school she tries to feed the birds at home.
“The birdies are my friends and when I go home from school I try to feed them.
“My favourite bird is a Blue Tit - I think they are the most beautiful bird in the world and I can’t wait to get outside and take a photograph of one.”
Christine Cassidy, who has a life long interest in birds and photography, says that working with the children was one of the reasons she got involved and says that she is impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife.
“I think it’s great to see a school introducing a project like this one. It’s all about promoting wildlife and if along the way they can win a prize for their photography then that’s great too.
“All of the children are really enthusiastic about the project and I plan on helping them to come up with the best possible photos.”
The results of the RSPB competition will be announced in May. See a future edition of the Sunday Journal to find out how Groarty Integrated P.S. got on.