By Bruno Passo
Public Engagement and Wildlife Education Trainee
After a long career in the travel industry, I finally decided to take the plunge and pursue my childhood passion for wildlife and conservation. I am now one of three lucky candidates on an 18 month Public Engagement and Wildlife Education Traineeship, a joint venture between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Leysdown Conservation Trust to provide a means for people to begin a new career in conservation. As a latecomer to the conservation sector, with no applicable academic background and only volunteering experience, this really is a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the workings of the Trust and acquire much-needed knowledge and experience.
Since starting last July I’ve been involved with everything from holiday clubs to Nature Tots, Wildlife Rangers, Wild Beach sessions, guided walks and school visits. I’ve studied outdoor first aid (with the introduction of fake blood and props for a richer, more realistic experience!) and off-road driving, run at a specially designed circuit with water crossings, harrowing descents and near vertical climbs making for a really fun day out.
But the highlight so far has been the Forest School training. Forest School is a specialised, inclusive and inspirational learning process designed to promote confidence and self-esteem in children through a range of activities carried out in a woodland setting. We learnt how to translate practical skills - like knot tying, fire lighting, shelter building, whittling and charcoal making - into resilience and confidence building activities, and then put our new-found knowledge to the test by delivering a session for a group of local school children. They had the freedom to choose which activities to get involved in, and how much and what they wanted to do. The session was a great success and I think this spontaneous comment from one of the children says it all: “This is the best school trip ever! Normally we always get told what to do and where to go but here, we are free.”
We are most grateful to the Trustees of the Leysdown Conservation Trust for enabling this training programme to happen.
Willow dome building at the Towers Convent School