Thanks to Trevor Bowyer, Forest School Officer, for the words and Bumblebee Trust for the image!
Matthew and I are the two education officers at Holland Park Ecology Centre – a varied and rewarding job teaching local children about nature. If you are a regular visitor to the park during term time, we have probably passed you leading a group of excited school children to do hands on exploring in our wildlife area.
During school holidays our focus shifts to running a full and fun-packed programme of 2-hour workshops for children between the ages of 5 and 10 and longer 4-hour sessions for older children in the Easter and Summer holidays. The sessions run nearly every weekday throughout all state school holidays except Christmas when we have a well earned rest!
The workshops always have an environmental theme, from the perennially popular pond dipping through to hunting for minibeasts and looking for signs of autumn out and about in the park.
In one session we challenged the children to make a tree troll…
Everyone carefully chose a small log which later would be turned into their fantastical creature. After explaining the real wildlife we might encounter in the woods and the likelihood of meeting a real troll we set off for our adventure in the park. Armed with rucksacks for collecting things, the children were tasked in finding suitable natural material to make their trolls.
As we journeyed through the park, eagle eyed children gathered special objects like berries, twigs and a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves for their craft creations. Our nature trek took us through the woods and some of the other enclosures in the park. Near the walking man statue some of the group found jewels like delicate leaf skeletons and precious peacock feathers. Thankfully (or perhaps not) no real trolls or gruffalos were spotted!
The next stage of the session was creation. The children spread their finds out on their tables and started making their characters. Juicy holly berries were stuck on to become beady eyes or shiny noses, sticks were now limbs, and large red leaves become cloaks. Headdresses were made from the feathers carefully glued together.
Within 20 minutes or so a whole tribe of trolls emerged and the children had great fun naming them and describing their trolls’ special powers and personalities. One enterprising boy turned his log into a galleon with red billowing sails for the trolls to set sail in.
Sadly time was soon up and after a photo call the trolls with their proud new owners departed. “Time for a cup of tea,” Matthew said and after that we tidied away ready for the next session.
I hope this article gives you a flavour of the holiday activities we run. Over the years we have made all sorts of crafts from paper bag owls to journey sticks and carried out lots of pond dipping and minibeast hunting sessions.
Our sessions have proved very popular and we have a growing band of regulars. We hope everyone who attends, including the parents, enjoys themselves and learns about the wildlife that calls Holland Park its home.
It is not all for children though; why let them have all the fun? We also run a varied programme of talks and walks for adults. Upcoming events include walks on trees, bats and butterflies. Or you can join us in October for a fungi foray.
Details of upcoming events including our holiday activities can be found at www.rbkc.gov.uk/ecology
Tel: 0207 938 8186