Sunday, 7 April 2013

Never work with children or animals

by Ashleigh Kent-Stallwood

On the Roadshow with the Green Schools Bus
I don’t know what I want to do after graduation. So I saw my placement year as an opportunity to discover a possible career path, or at least to cross one off the list. I stumbled across environmental education which led me to working with Groundwork. Groundwork began in 1980 as a government-backed experiment, initiated by the Countryside Commission, which aimed to find new ways of improving the environment on the edge of industrial towns and cities. Groundwork is now a federation of 48 locally owned Groundwork Trusts in England, Wales and Northern Island, working with over 100 local authorities between them to deliver solutions faced by the most deprived communities. Since September I have been working as a voluntary intern for Groundwork South, the local Groundwork Trust for West London, Heathrow and the Thames Valley area.

The first project I was involved in was “Oxfordshire Green Schools”. The aim of this project is to deliver environmental education to schools in Oxfordshire, with a focus on energy and waste, in order to reduce the School’s environmental impact. I worked alongside the Green Schools Officers and I was able to get involved with every aspect of the project. My role was very varied and included the following:
  • Basic office tasks
  • Ordering new workshop resources
  • Developing lesson plans
  • Designing and creating learning materials
  • Participating in the Green Bus Roadshow
  • Delivering in-school workshops
  • Helping out at events

I even made it into the Oxford Mail!

In January I began working at Braywick, a Local Nature Reserve in Maidenhead. Braywick is owned by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead but they have recently set up a partnership with Groundwork South. I was working alongside the Countryside and Community Engagement Officer in charge of all the nature sites in Windsor and Maidenhead. Again, my role was extremely varied and I was able to get involved in everything the Ranger did. I worked across various different sites and it included the following:

  • Woodland thinning and coppicing
  • Planting trees
  • Planting hedgerows
  • Trimming hedgerows 
  • Clearing areas of non-native plant species 
  • Wildlife surveys 
  • Management assessments 
  • Working with various volunteer groups including TCV 
  • Working with adults with learning difficulties 
  • Developing lesson plans
  • Designing and creating learning materials 
  • Delivering school sessions focused on conservation
Assisting a volunteer group to put up bat boxes
Thinning an area of over-populated woodland

An area that we cleared of Japanese Snow Berry and replanted
with native species including Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Oak and Maple

My placement is due to finish on May 31st. However, I have recently been offered a position as a session worker. This is a paid position and will involve the organisation and delivery of the summer education programme at Braywick Nature Reserve.

People say never work with children and animals, but I have extremely enjoyed my placement so far and it has given me a great in-sight into the world of environmental education. I have gained invaluable experience and I am definitely considering this as a possible career choice. I am passionate about conservation and I love the idea of being able to use that passion to teach the next generation. Working with children requires patience, understanding, improvisation, empathy and confidence. Also, acting excited every time they show you the stone/pine cone/twig they’ve found. Listening to countless “true” stories about how they were once poisoned by a snake and used to have a pet badger and hosing dog poo off of numerous welly boots. If all else fails, impress them with your knowledge of Pokemon/Star Wars/Vampire Bats.

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