Interactive biodiversity lab

I’ve just finished a three-day lab for a large school in Wicklow. I delivered the workshops from junior infants to sixth class over three days. The time allocation were 40 minute time slots – this worked like a dream with all age groups. I had six classes per day….

Pictures of birds, spiders…loom bands, microscopes, leaves, tadpoles, feathers and even glitter!!

Glitter looks really good under the microscope, hey hang on a minute – what’s that got to do with biodiversity…..well nothing – it rather happened by chance & the children found it fascinating and even better scattered over the birds feathers, quite a work of art….What I found amazing is that this is a material that children know and use quite frequently – if anything it helped them to understand magnification….if they were really interested they could study the actual task of studying the feathers locking mechanism.. What prey have we here? Bees, Habitats of Wicklow, Map of Wicklow and loom bands…

The star attractions – tadpoles ‘the wet table’ or ‘messy table’ where we prepare to roll up sleeves….

 January – Winter lecture series – From the Amazon to Wicklow

 February – Signs of spring

 March – Signs of spring

 April – Signs of spring

 May – Flower – pollinators

 June – Flower – pollinators

 September – Trees – Autumn colours

 October – Trees – Autumn colours

 November – Trees – Autumn colours

 December – Snowflakes

General – All about the bees in trouble, habitat awareness, ecology orienteering, planting for nature, let’s take a hike, nature walk to the local park…


Biodiversity Workshops for Secondary Schools 2016 – 2017

Biodiversity Workshops for Secondary Schools  2016 – 2017ericthebirdman

  • ‘Study of Ecosystem’ on school grounds;
  • Biodiversity Hike; Raptors/Birds Study;
  • Hike to the local Park.
  • Biodiversity & Variety is the Spice of Life !

Plan a workshop for this coming year with the following choices for Secondary Students from ;

  • The Kites in Wicklow
  • Our own wonderful Amazon jungle in the Wicklow Mountains National Park
  • Learn All about the Bees in trouble

Perhaps it’s a workshop on your school grounds; Perhaps a Hike in Wicklow Mountains National Park; A talk all about the bees in trouble, Kites, Buzzard & Peregrine Falcon in Wicklow.
How can we help?

We have good availability from June 2016 (as of today)

Sample Packages:
Customize an Interactive ‘Scientific Ecology Study of an Ecosystem’ on school grounds. Compulsory field study in preparation for Leaving Certificate Biology Programme. For two experts!

Group of 30
Paper packs printed by school

Biodiversity Hike in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
For both experts 10am-1pm
Group of 30
Paper packs printed by school

Indoor Winter series of talks
For both experts 10am-1pm
Group of 30
Paper packs printed by school

We are both Garda vetted
Contact the following from the Wicklow Heritage In Schools Expert Panel.
Call Eric Dempsey;
Bird & Biodiversity Specialists
087 907 5669
Twitter: @EricTheBirdman

Call Grace Garde
Ecology & Biodiversity Specialists
Twitter: @GracefulLands


Junior Pollinator Plan – All about the bees in trouble

Junior Pollinator Plan – All about the bees in trouble.
15 subsidised days left for this calendar year.

help save our bees

What are we going to talk about? 

  • Honey?
  • Who & what are pollinators?
  • Why are they important?
  • The wonderful world of bees inside the colony?
  • Why are pollinators & bees in trouble?
  • Junior pollinator plan
  • What can schools/families/parents do for bees?
  • How can I help?
  • Let’s get planting
  • Understand what food the bee needs?
  • Understand why he visits the flower?
  • Why are a third of our Irish Bees in decline?
  • We can all do something to help?
If you wish to have other biodiversity workshops please contact me directly, I work with a number of specialists in the Nature World.
I am garda vetted, completed a child protection, first aid, & hill walking course.

Interesting fact – did you know that
Bumblebees sit on their eggs? bee




Interesting scientific Labeling of the morphology of a bee bee2




How do bees see? Why not like us?
How does that effect the flowers that see? bee3


Subsidized primary schools visits €100/€60 Full day

Heritage in schools scheme
Wicklow Panel
Visits to Wicklow & Dublin
Mobile 0871477507
Landline 01-2819275
Twitter: @GracfulLands
 days available

Tinahely National School – Heritage in schools visit – 4th September 2015

I got a call to visit the Tinahely National School in May 2015 and I was booked in for a September slot, 4th September 2015.

The schools request was to: “To enable the teachers and class groups to learn about the main plants/shrubs/trees that are growing in our school garden. Our hope is to map the garden and list all major trees etc. to act as an aid to future lessons, and transfer the information onto a Habitat Map

I had all 5 classes ranging from junior infants to sixth class. We had an ok day fairly overcast – temperatures ranging about 12-13 degrees. The weather pickedup in the afternoon. I knew there wouldn’t be any pollinators about.

The night before, I did a recci on ‘google maps’ and studied the school grounds and layout, and took approximate measurements of the school. This helped me to understand what equipment I required and what I needed for the school grounds. I brought a long measurement line so that it would help use measure out the perimeter of the hedgerow. Then using a photocopy of the OS map of the school, we used this as our base template to start recording species. We started with the sixth class, as they were able to write the species, hold the maps, and walk and understand what was happening with the hedgerow. While we walked and talked we numbered species along the map and recorded their common names, if Latin names were known they were also provided.

The hedgerow was a typical mature hedgerow in the countryside which had been recently coppiced.

The dominant large species of trees were Horse chestnut, Ash, Oak, Beech, the small trees were Rowan, Birch, and in the understory field layer we had Ivy, Herb Robert (still flowering), Nettles, Brambles, Cleaver, Foxglove, Alexandra. We noticed a section of sick trees that were probably effected by some kind of fungus – honey fungus perhaps as a section of trees and shrubs were sick for around 10 m or so. The children were fascinated to understand that trees get sick too. There were a family of robins in this hedgerow, but not so many other some birds for some reason – perhaps too cold? When I returned to the hedgerow there were a large flock of little birds (when all the children had disappeared probably foraging on the berries etc.).

With the younger groups we studied the mature hollies that had berries – they were still green – so the children understood that Santa hadn’t started shopping yet! We found a lot of insects in this area such as spiders & their nests, shield bugs, baby ladybirds, mature ladybirds, greenfly, a very tired hungry bumblebee (so we got sugared water). We identified the species at the front of the school and transferred this onto the habitat map. There was a beautiful apple tree, too, but it wasn’t ripe just yet. We noticed how the conifer trees were a great habitat for spider’s webs, in particular and there were a good few nests around.

The younger children got their clip boards and crayons and we did leaf rubbings and prints with a few common species of trees. I was very impressed with the school and how well they kept their school grounds with a huge focus and interest on nature. They had a few handmade insect hideouts, and a compost bin. Their growing garden areas were fantastic.

Well done to Tinahely National School for all their hard efforts & interest in natural heritage and using the school grounds to create their habitat map. This will help the school branch out to broaden the children’s knowledge of the local biodiversity, and natural heritage in their area.

Signing-off – Grace Garde

Heritage in schools Wicklow Heritage Expert

Signs of Spring

Detective Spring!

Teachers… this is a great activity to do with your class on your school grounds.

I call it the ‘Signs of Spring’ worksheet.

Spring flowers –
Typical spring flowers out now would be Lesser Celandine, Herb Robert, Dandelion, Daisy, Primrose, Chickweed, Common Speedwell.
An excellent website I could highly recommend is

The next item I ask the class to look out for is nest building materials. The children love to build their own nests out of material that they find i.e. feathers, loose moss, and sticks. Birds are great recyclers of all materials found in nature and if they have heat value they will be used.

Most trees are just in the stage of ‘bud burst’ right now – interesting to ask the children what emerges out of the buds –
the answer should be leaves, but often you will get an answer such as ‘apples’ or the like. It is helpful to explain the process of “bud burst” with the children.

Habitat Map - specifically dealing with 'Trees for Bees'

Habitat Map – specifically dealing with ‘Trees for Bees’

Often the buds and the bark are the only distinctive features at this time of the year, so doing bark rubbings can be useful so they can really study and feel the texture of the bark on the different types of trees.

The insects will all be hiding at this time of the year – the temperatures are only starting to warm up to get them moving. Any ladybirds that have survived will start moving around. You might see Bumblebees / Butterflies if you are lucky.

2 7-spot ladybirds overwintering in under cover of a fennel plant in the local allotment

2 7-spot ladybirds overwintering in under cover of a fennel plant in the local allotment

In our recent workshop because the school garden had great woodland trees in their garden they had a great selection of local garden birds that we were able to study. This ranged from the Blackcap, Chaffinch, Robin, Goldcrest, and Goldfinch, along with the common starlings, blackbirds, pigeons, and rooks.

An excellent website I could highly recommend is

Wherever you find all these animals – you have found their habitat – and you are ready to draw up the spring habitat map! If you find it difficult to find any animals on your school grounds you will need to create more habitats for them to live in!

The children love finding spiders & their webs!Detective Butterfly

Just to note**
Top trees for nectar production:
Most of the honey is collected between mid-June and the end of July when many flowering plants such as white clover and blackberry are in bloom. Trees and Ivy are also rich sources of nectar. The top trees for nectar production are Willow, Apple, Hawthorn, Maple, Pear, Cherry, Lime, Horse Chestnut, Alder, Hazel, Sycamore, and Holly.

Winter Project: 6th Class learn all about Bees!

Labelling of the Bee

Labelling of the Bee

This Autumn I worked with a Primary school in the South Dublin suburbs and they requested that we start a project on bees initially for submission to the Young Scientist competition. They wanted to: To learn more about Bees, their habitat, and their impact on our lives – working with two sixth class groups of 16 and 18 at different times. It was a fascinating project for all concerned. We primarily focused on the Irish Honey Bee, although they were aware of the other 100 bee species native to Ireland. We focused on the casts within the Hive, the morphology, behavior, and dynamics within the bee colony throughout the year. The children made hand-made models of bees out of art materials.

We also completed a ‘Trees for Bees Habitat Map’. This will tie in very nicely with their Biodiversity Flag as they must do a habitat map for this flag. There were 83 mature trees on the grounds hundreds of years old. So we used an existing arborist report and mapped the 83 trees onto a large a1 site map of the school. The students went out with ipads and took morphological pictures of the trees inc. leaf & bark rubbings. Then we isolated the trees known be beneficial to the bees and recorded them on the map specifically – out of the selection these were noted as ‘Horse Chestnut, Lime & Sycamore trees’. There were significant hedgerows with a large Ivy/hawthorn/bramble/ populations but this would be recorded on a separate piece of work.

The children learned how the bees communicate through the ‘waggle dance’, and the ‘tremble dance’. They learned about pollination and the flower morphology. They were fascinated to learn about the Queen, we even dedicated a ‘Queen Bee workshop’!!. The breakdown of functions within the hive depending on the age of the bees and the time of year, and what the bees do with the pollen and nectar they collect. Every week, I went away with questions such as ‘How long does it take for the bees to produce a wild hive, how long does it take for the hive to get to 50-60k bees?, how many stings would it take to kill a human?, why are African bees so aggressive?, what’s in the queen bee sting? – is it different, who makes the queen cells?, is inbreeding an issue in the colony?, explain the evolution of insects?, how many queen cells are there?, what are the differences between a Bumblebee and wasp colony?……It was a real pleasure to work on this project with 6th class children.


This piece originally appeared on the Heritage in Schools website.