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Dates for assembly

January 19-30 Big Schools' Birdwatch

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is inviting participation in a schools' version of its Big Garden Birdwatch, a census of our common birds.

Outline script for assembly leader

Only about 1,000 pandas are still alive in the wild in the whole world. The gorillas of Africa and tigers in Asian countries are becoming very rare.

Before long, there could be no more elephants left in the world if we continue to kill so many of them for their ivory tusks.

In this country, one garden creature is now endangered: the once common house sparrow. Today, there are about 10 million fewer sparrows in Britain than there were 30 years ago; that's 64 per cent fewer birds. Other birds are becoming more common as they learn to live near humans. Pied wagtails now visit school grounds after lunch and break times because they know that they can then find crumbs of food on the ground. Starlings have learned to imitate telephones, police sirens and car alarms. Seagulls that have seen helicopters make the ground vibrate when they take off have learned that if they paddle frantically in puddles, they will bring worms to the surface in the way helicopters do.

The RSPB is an organisation that cares for and protects endangered species of birds. It is asking schools to help them work out how many birds and which kinds of birds now live near people - especially in our school grounds and parks.

Follow up

Jesus said: "Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God caring about it."

Write a prayer for the welfare or preservation of a threatened species.

A free RSPB information pack and poster is available (especially suitable for key stages 1 and 2) , telephone 0870 608 6301 or visit www.rspb.org.ukbirdwatch A WelshEnglish version is available.

Besides counting, the birdwatch survey can lead to mathematical work in estimating and comparing sizes (eg bigger or smaller than a blackbird?).

Observation can also involve writing precise descriptions: how do collared doves and woodpigeons differ? What are the colours on a starling? Learning to imitate the call of birds will encourage careful listening. How would you spell the harsh croak of a gull or the call of a wagtail?

Some pupils will enjoy learning the Latin names of birds: why, for example, the house sparrow is called passer domesticus.

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