12 months since winning the UnLtd award for social enterprise and what a year of Wild UnLtd Wonder its been. Recognising the value of Wild Wonder and the need for community engagement with nature, the UnLtd award has enabled me to offer so much more, build exciting projects and develop rewarding partnerships. Working with schools, community groups, conservation & outdoor play organisations, arts funds and senior citizen groups – its been a busy year.
Wild Wonder Days with primary schools are a very important part of my work and over the past year I’ve taken more than 5000 school children on safari. In urban & rural school children have discovered & photographed butterflies, insects, newts, frogs, toads, slowworms & wildflowers in their playgrounds. Children in nature clubs have built minibeast hotels, bird feeders, improved wildlife gardens & taken part in the RSPB Big School Birdwatch. Venturing further with school groups – we’ve filmed adders basking just beyond the school gates and million strong starling murmurations overhead. Created wild-inspired artworks while exploring swathes of snowdrops, swimming water voles and were even quiet enough to watch and photograph nesting kingfishers. “I’ve just been looking at the children’s photos and, to be honest, I’m quite choked up! They are amazing, I’m so thrilled with them and proud of the children. You can tell they’ve had the privilege of working with you before as they’re really now thinking about how to take something in a different way, it’s wonderful! Thank you! We’re going to attempt some fabric painting and perhaps some 3D fabric work and then, hopefully, create a large mural. I also want to use the photos for some reflective PSCHE work. Lots to do in a short space of time.”
In many schools we involve parents in the wild learning – from afterschool session in the grounds to evening wildlife watching. With pupils, parents, grandparents and teachers of Howe Dell school we enjoyed the night-time antics of twelve wild badgers!
Beyond wildlife, schools have used the outdoor learning and observational skills for community engagement projects. In Welwyn ‘Garden & City’ the Handside Partnership of Applecroft Primary, Stanborough Secondary & Lakeside Special School created an amazing portrait of their community – culminating in a town-centre exhibition . Abbots Langley Primary worked with Wild Wonder to research and update the 20 yr-old book about their local community – photographing and interviewing local businesses and residents. Then there was beautiful umbrella art & understanding composition with Springmead. Such inspired learning.
The wonder of wildlife should be available to all and so it is important that Wild Wonder hosts family and community sessions that are free or affordable to all. Just a few of the sessions from the past 12 months include wildlife hunting on the streets of urban Bristol with Playing Out, family photography in London with Greenwich Ecology Park and an engaging community project with Avon Wildlife Trust – A Year In The Life of Portbury Wharf which continues through 2014.
Partnering with youth arts organisation IdeasTap in 2013 we offered free workshop and follow-up mentoring for some of the best new wildlife photography talent such as Jack Perks and Katie Mayhew. I’m delighted to be repeating the brief again in 2014 and look forward to meeting future wild minds and winners of BWPA and NHM Wildlife Photographer! And through talks and events with members of Jubilee, Golden Age and WI groups I can draw upon their wealth of wild experiences and wildlife knowledge to share with younger members of society.
Whether leading wildlife & photography courses for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, PTES, WWT, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, donating time to judge photography competitions, blogs for ARKIVE, offering prizes & images I am privileged to able to support and work with some of the finest wildlife and animal organisations. And not forgetting Drawing upon my work with wild tigers in India it gave me much pleasure to be able to support the vital work of EIA and SaveWildTigers and their St Pancras tiger event.
Thanks to everyone I’ve met this year and to the support from UnLtd, the plan for the next 365 days is to involve & engage even more people with wildlife and the outdoor environment – beginning with bluebells and the tidal cycle of a beach.
And within the next few months we will launch a very special school project.
If you would like to bring Wild Wonder to your school, community group or organisation please email me