Alex Bateson, one of RSPB Leighton Moss' Learning and Visitor Assistants (LVAs), reflects on her time inspiring children and adults alike to learn and care about nature:
As my 6 month stint as a Learning and Visitor Assistant (LVA) draws to an end I thought I’d write a blog about my fantastic experience with the RSPB at Leighton Moss.
Engaging young people with nature has always been a key belief and passion of mine and has formed the focus of my career for the past 12 years. The current culture of spending more time indoors has led to younger generations becoming increasingly removed from nature. In my previous roles with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and The Bushcraft Co, I witnessed the incredible positive difference which outdoor wildlife based activities provide in terms of stress release, behaviour and attitudes. So, with my motivation to make a difference to the future generations of people and wildlife, I relished the opportunity to work for the RSPB in the role of Learning and Visitor Assistant.
Alex Bateson, Learning and Visitor Assistant (LVA)
I began in March when the busy season had already begun. Spring and Summer continued to be so, with school bookings almost every day during term time and fun family events filling the holidays. There has never been a dull minute here, and as soon as I started I instantly loved everyone’s enthusiasm to inspire people of all ages about wildlife.
As an LVA I‘ve had the opportunity to lead school visits, each one including several curriculum based activities. It is not hard to enthuse about everything from Minibeast hunts, Habitat trails, Pond dipping, to the secondary school Eco-sampling session, when all us staff and volunteers enjoy it so much ourselves. Receiving thank you letters from schools about how much they learnt and enjoyed during their visits is extremely rewarding, and allows you to see the difference you make.Their letters highlight what experiences they remember from their school trip, feelings they had, information they absorbed and messages they took home. Here below are a handful of quotes from thank you letters we received this summer, which convey the rewards of working in this field.
- I want to say thank you for an amazing day. I had so much fun, when I’m older I want to be as adventurous as you at the RSPB!
- This was the best school trip ever. All the staff were friendly and helped us learn and have fun at the same time.
- My favourite thing was being a nature detective. I learnt minibeasts can actually be quite interesting when you take a look. It amazed me that a centipede has 2 sets of jaws!
- I loved it when we went up the sky tower even though I am scared of heights. I like it because you could see so much of the reserve.
Frog attending one of Alex's Habitat trails
It was also an absolute privilege to deliver family events during school holidays. Birds in the Barn and Butterflies in the Barn involved fun interactive activities such as orienteering and family quizzes, What Lives Beneath gave people a chance to see what lurks under our ponds, and Nature Up Close opened everyone’s eyes (including staff and volunteers) through the use of microscopes.
Engaging toddlers and their families through Nature Tots and Tots Trek was another extremely fulfilling area to get involved in. It is so refreshing to see tots jump from mole hill to mole hill, burrow for minibeasts and collect materials to make bird nests, and reminds me why I entered this line of work.
The factor which has made my time here a complete pleasure, is working with such wonderful RSPB volunteers. They have been supportive, enthusiastic and now, 5 months later, consider them extremely good friends. Working alongside volunteers to engage children, young people and families with nature makes this one of the most fulfilling posts you can imagine. As such I encourage anyone contemplating becoming involved in the learning sector to jump at the opportunity, whether as staff, intern or volunteer.
As for what the future holds for me, I have been invited back to work next year in the same role and obviously leapt at the chance. So in March I will be back for the busy season when schools begin, once more, to migrate to Leighton Moss.
If you have considered entering into this line of work, either as a job or as a volunteer, or if you are thinking of arranging a school trip to Leighton Moss, jump right in and contact our Learning Officer, Carol Bamber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01514 703015.