Linking to the RSPB Big School Birdwatch, The Great Woolly Worm Hunt is an exciting way to learn about birds and keep warm in the winter weather. This activity has been run across school with variations for age and ability.
The children were read a traditional tale, The Magpie and the Birds Nests, this tale helps to explain the variety of nests and the kind of materials that might be used. Then it was over to the children to begin their challenge. In pairs they became the birds, they had to create a nest using natural materials to fit the bird they had chosen. With the younger children Miss Rowe demonstrated nest building before the game started. The children collected and manipulated grasses and twigs to create a nest of substance. Very tricky even with opposable thumbs, especially under time pressure!
Once the nests were completed the nesting pair had to locate their nest on the main pitch. Now the race begins. Around the Forest School were Woolly Worms of all different colours, locations and sizes. The job, to bring as many woolly worms back to the nest as possible to feed the chick (in this case a stick). Of course the nest must be protected at all times from potential predators who may swoop in and steal your worms and only one worm can be collected at a time. Once back in the nest the worm must be secured onto “the chick”.
At the end of the game the children reflected on their experience, which worms were the hardest to find, which colours really attracted attention. The game encourages conversation about how certain birds are more effected than others by changes to their habitat and food supply. Scavengers can thrive but creatures that have a very specific food source are more vulnerable. They also discovered first hand how energy sapping life can be if you are limited by the amount of food to can consume in relation to the amount of energy used to catch it.