During the school holidays, The Royal Parks Foundation and their Isis Education Centre organise Discovery days to welcome children of all ages to come and join various activities to discover the natural world in a playful and creative way.
Today is the Wild Water Discovery Day (appropriate theme seeing that it poured it down with rain all day long). Luckily, the Lookout in Hyde Park, where the Centre is based, offers two large indoors areas, where various arts and crafts have been set up for the kids. Children can choose out of various activities such as making a frog out of paper plates and paint, creating your own water creature with recycled plastic recipients, color and paint in various aquatic animals, observing algae and exuviates from various flies under a magnifying glass or if one does not mind the rain, there is a nature trail set up where questions, clues and facts on the theme of water are hidden all round the garden…
Our young guests, ranging from 2 to 6 years old arrive in the morning and start with some indoors activities to dry after their wet journey to the park. It is wonderful to see the kids putting such application and attention to detail in their efforts to make the most realistic looking frog or paint in a beautiful multi-colored dragonfly.
Once we have a small crew gathered and in between two rain showers, it is time to discover the real wildlife outside. Making sure everyone is properly geared up for the rain, we head direction pond, for some pond dipping. To our question “What are we going to find that is living in the pond?” “Fish!”, is the common reply, but you would be surprised that there are no fish living in our natural pond. Instead, there are many other tiny creatures you would never have thought of. To let the children discover this by themselves, we provide everyone with nets, a tray with water and an identification key. The children (and the accompanying adults) love it, sweeping their nets in the water and observing their catch in the trays. What is in there? Such small and unfamiliar organisms! The excitement reaches a high when we catch and identify some fascinating ones, most of them we would have never seen before: young newts, higher and lesser water boats men, water snails, leaches, water skaters, mayfly and dragonfly nymphs. It strikes the kids, but yes, dragonflies spend the biggest part of their life cycle as a nymph, underwater, before transforming into this beautiful dragonfly we see flying around the pond.
After this exciting day in the Centre, the children head home with beautiful arts and crafts, lots of thrilling stories to tell and with a whole new view on the pond!
Once the kids have left, the volunteers stay to help out with preparing welcome packs to be sent out to the members of Team Squirrel, the Royal Park’s squad who will be running the Royal Parks half-marathon, raising funds for the Foundation. This year the Half Marathon will be happening on the 12th of October and will gather over 16.000 people, aiming to raise funds for various charities including the Royal Parks Foundation itself. The 180–men sized Squirrel team will be aiming to gather £50 000 to support activities in the Parks, such as the teaching program for children at the Isis Education Centre.
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