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Planet Botanic Holiday Club Adventures this Summer!

Reading Time 3 minutes
Date 3 August 2023
How do you tell the difference between a frog and a toad? Does anything eat woodlice? How can spore prints help us identify mushrooms? These are just some of the questions that our inquisitive Holiday Club participants were eager to find the answers to!

We ran the Planet Botanic Holiday Club for four weeks over the summer holidays. As before, the participants were a mix of funded and paid places. It was a fantastic opportunity for children with a diverse range of backgrounds and aptitudes to build their confidence, learn about nature and make new friends!

Each day of the Holiday Club was centred around a particular theme. This allowed the participants to explore topics in depth and get involved with a wide variety of exciting activities. Among the themes was minibeasts, where we learned how to differentiate between the main classes of arthropods that we might encounter in the garden and how to set up pitfall traps for invertebrate sampling. A popular encounter on minibeast day was the devil’s coach horse beetle, a voracious, predatory insect that rears its abdomen like a scorpion when threatened. The participants absolutely loved this ferocious little creature, so much so that some were asking if they could take one home as a pet! This led to an interesting discussion about whether it is okay to take animals out of their habitats to keep in our homes. One of the participants opined that taking an animal from its habitat was akin to humans ‘being abducted by aliens’, which helped convince everyone that it was best to leave them where they are!

Our search for minibeasts also led us to discover myriad frogs and toads in the Friendly Forest and Meadow. These absolutely delighted the participants, who split into small teams to conduct a ‘frog survey.’ Each team of budding ecologists would search for frogs around a small area and record the number that they saw, with one team recording over fifty frogs and toads! One of the participants was so excited by this activity that they helped explain to a group of Garden visitors where to find frogs and toads and how to differentiate between them. It was wonderful to see the participant’s confidence develop over their time at the Club to the point where they were able to articulate what they had learned with such enthusiasm.

One of the themes that the participants were most interested in was forensic science. The children were able to experience the dynamic world of forensic investigation, from taking their own fingerprints to excavating a buried skeleton! We also discussed the contribution of botanical and entomological evidence to forensic investigations, explaining how microscopic examination of pollen can help with identification and how the insects that colonise a body can provide an estimate of time since death. While this all may seem rather grim, the children were rapt! They loved getting their hands dirty digging up some bones and working together to reassemble the skeleton. Some participants were particularly enthused by these activities and stated that forensic science was an area they would look to pursue in the future. It’s wonderful to think that the Holiday Club can spark such interest and curiosity for science and nature.

Alongside our outdoor activities, the participants got stuck into various arts and crafts projects. These provided ample opportunity for participants to engage with nature in expressive and creative ways. We used tissue paper and wool to create colourful windsocks based on the appearance and colouration of dragonflies, some of which are still hanging in our Glass Class as decorations! After learning how spore prints could be used to identify mushrooms, we decided to have a go at making our own mini mushroom gardens out of clay. Many of the participants added extra features to their gardens, including flowers, snails, frogs and even a tombstone!

We are looking forward to running the Holiday Club again over the October school holidays and providing more opportunities for children to build their confidence and engage with nature. Of course, October is the month of Halloween, so participants can look forward to creepy crafts, ghoulish games and spooktacular science activities! Come along if you dare!

We’re grateful to the Our Minds Matter Small Grants Fund through Fife Council and the Scottish Government, which provided funding for our Planet Botanic Holiday Club this spring and summer!

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