ACTION for Biology in Education (ABE) and the Chelsea Physic Garden are organising a Backyard Biodiversity Day on June 21 as a midsummer celebration of local wildlife. Aimed at nine to 12-year-olds, in schools, clubs or with their families, the day is an opportunity to investigate the plant and animal life on our doorsteps - too often rushed past without a second glance.
The idea of the day is to catch the interest of children at a transition stage, says Virginia Purchon of ABE, who is organising the event with Dawn Sanders, education officer at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
"Children are losing contact with nature as a result of urbanisation," she says. "We want to raise awareness and develop their powers of detection." Pupils are simply asked to spend 15 minutes exploring the biodiversity of their garden or school grounds.
ABE has published an Action Kit of activities for the day which includes looking at places such as under stones, old logs, or a pile of leaves in the playground or exploring more specialised habitats such as forests, heathlands or the seashore. Some activities focus on wild flowers, spiders, snails or slugs. Pupils can record their findings in any way they like - statistically, in nature diaries, withartwork or creative writing, and send their observations to the biodiversity day website: www.biodiversityday.org They can also take part in a more formal survey of 10 plants and animals, using downloadable recording that the ABE will be putting on the website. The organisers hope this will give a broad picture of some aspects of UK wildlife in June and, if repeated, highlight interesting trends.
Training days are under way for June 21, as well as for promoting biodiversity activities throughout Science Year. The Chelsea Physic Garden will be the hub of activities on the day with special events for schools. Dawn Sanders says: "People speak passionately about the tropical rainforest and biodiversity, and we often forget the excitement of the small lives occupying our doorsteps. Even Charles Darwin, for all his travels on the Beagle, didn't forget his backyard biodiversity."
* Backyard Biodiversity Action Kit, pound;6.50 from ABE, Glebe House, Ashby Road, Ticknall, Derbyshire DE73 1JJ. Telfax: 01332 862993.
* Action for Biology in Education: contact Virginia Purchon, ABE, 54 Gondar Gardens, London NW6 lHG. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Chelsea Physic Garden: Dawn Sanders, tel: 020 7352 5646