Blueberries, potatoes and the lonely bug!
On the eve of our first visit from a year five class, I was weeding our nature trail and tidying up. To my amazement, I saw what looked like a female stage beetle! I picked up the small rotting piece of wood and put it with the beetle inside a small window seal plant container. I sealed the plastic lid tight as I knew it would rain, so it wouldn’t get flooded out!
Whilst taking 21 children on a tour of our nature trail, I asked who could identify the different plants, vegetables and herbs. The two items of particular interest were: Blueberries and potatoes. I asked, ‘who has had blueberry pie?’ I was met with a resounding: ‘No!’ I then asked, ‘who has had a blueberry muffin?’ I was met with a resounding: ‘Yes!’
We looked at the potatoes and one child said, ‘I thought potatoes grew on trees!’ The other children started laughing and making those same silly faces we as adults used to pull, with our tongues rolled up inside our chins! I explained, ‘no, they grow from the ground.’ We discussed all the things you could make with potatoes, from chips, roast potatoes, jacket potatoes to potato and beetroot pie. I then asked, ‘how do you like your potatoes?’ They all answered: ‘Chips!’
Did you know that the Indians in Peru were the first people to cultivate the potato over 4000 years ago? The Andean Mountains of South America is the birthplace of the Irish white potato1.
Further on into the trail, I then told them that they were about to see a very rare bug. I asked them if they had ever heard of or had seen a stag beetle before. They all replied, ‘no!’ When I took the stage beetle out, I asked how long they thought they lived and what they ate. When I told them it was a female, they asked if I had named her. I asked the group to shout out a name, to which 21 voices shouted different names at random. Then a girl in the group shouted: ‘Lets call her Bobinna! Yes, let’s call her Bobbina!’ The vote was cast and she was named. Just as I was putting her back into her habitat, one child shouts ‘Bobinna’s all alone!’ Then another shouted: ‘Now Bobbina needs a Bobby!’ The looks on the teachers’ faces were priceless. My colleagues and I were laughing all day!
‘The stag beetle is one of the species chosen by the Government to be included in its Biodiversity Action Plan. You can help too: By leaving any tree stumps in your garden to rot down naturally, and by making a log pile. Occasionally, stag beetles larvae may even be found in compost heaps. The more decaying wood there is around, the more places there are available for the female stag beetle to lay her eggs. By helping in this way, we can all play a part in making sure that the stag beetle has a good chance of a safe future2’.
Having a quality play environment that encompasses the full range of play types, including natural elements, provides all children with quality play experiences. The work from this school visit set out to demonstrate how we can connect children with nature through play and the good this can do for our children. Play settings and schools need to work together to help secure our children and young people’s future health, well-being and happiness.