Author Katie Eberstein
BHee Environmental Education Officer
Brilliant sunshine, two classes of enthusiastic and energetic ten year olds, and a beach with rock pools just outside Brighton – recipe for a great school trip. But this was a fieldtrip with a difference – this week the children were arriving on bikes.
Pupils from Carlton Hill and Fairlight schools, cycled from their schools in the centre of Brighton, through the town and along the coastal cycle path to Ovingdean.
Once there, pupils had an opportunity to delve around in the rock pools with our Making Waves officer, discovering the secrets revealed by the low tide, including devil crabs, strawberry anemones and shrimps. They also explored the strandline finding catshark and ray egg cases, whelks and their egg cases, crab shells and stacks of cuttlefish bones that had been washed up on the shore. They also looked at the rubbish left and washed up on the beach and the impact this has on the marine environment.
Those pupils who couldn’t cycle, joined the others by bus. At lunchtime, after everyone had been revived by smoothies made by the pedal-power smoothie bike, these pupils got some individual cycle training of their own.
These days were part of the Bike to Nature scheme – a partnership between BHee (Brighton & Hove environmental education) and Sustrans. It aims to give a wider experience of environmental education. As well as the workshops where pupils learn about local wildlife, this programme encourages children to cycle to their destination, allowing them to travel in a carbon neutral way, immerse themselves in the outdoors, see more of their local environment as well as learning important life skills about safe cycling and improving personal fitness.
The teachers comments included ‘The children loved the opportunity to explore the wildlife found on beaches in their own habitat and gained a great deal of knowledge from the workshop’ and ‘It was an excellent trip - the children were highly motivated, interesting in learning new facts about sea creatures and outraged by the impact of rubbish on sealife. All talked about what they could do to help clear up next time they were on the beach.’
And this scheme isn’t just limited to the beach. There are lots of other accessible places for schools to visit using small roads or the excellent cycle paths all over the city. We are hoping more schools take up the offer of ‘Biking to Nature’ next year.
Brighton & Hove environmental education project (BHee) is delivered by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Resource Futures, funded by Brighton & Hove City Council.