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It is well documented that the most inspirational teachers have genuine passion for their chosen subject.
And so, as someone who famously talks to plants, the Prince of Wales was the ideal candidate to offer the nation’s bored, locked-down children a half-term nature lesson.
With clear enthusiasm and knowledge of his theme, he has urged young people to get outside during next week’s school holiday and explore the “wonderful things nature is doing” as spring approaches.
In conjunction with some of his charities, the Prince has set five daily challenges to encourage children and their families to pull on their wellies and engage with the natural world on their doorsteps.
From scouting for big leaves to painting stones and counting birds, he is keen for children to get outside and look closely at their local surroundings, be they in an inner city, the coast or the countryside.
“It’s at this time of year that all sorts of wonderful things start happening as nature wakes up the world from its winter sleep,” he said in a video message recorded at Highgrove last week.
“What I love to see is how each of these things depends on everything else happening – how the millions of tiny organisms in the soil make it possible for the flower to grow; how the trees become home to lots of insects and give shelter to birds as they build their nests.
“But you wouldn’t believe it, the way everything works together goes even deeper. You can see this if you look really closely at the patterns of things.”
Acknowledging the frustrations of being stuck indoors for months on end during the pandemic, the Prince, a lifelong advocate of the natural world, urged children to take a really close look at nature as it slowly changes, to note how “the same patterns occur over and over again”.
It is a project likely to be enthusiastically embraced by his own grandchildren.
The Duchess of Cambridge, in particular, has long-championed the importance of spending time outdoors and has admitted that Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, Prince Louis, two, are “dragged outside” come “rain or shine” due to its countless physical and emotional benefits.
Young participants will be encouraged to follow the hashtag #POWNatureChallenge and report their findings on social media, sending photographs of their discoveries and artistic endeavours.
A gallery of highlights will be posted on the Clarence House pages the following week.
“Whatever you do, look closely,” the Prince said.
“Notice the way nature organises everything so precisely, using the sorts of shapes I’m sure you have drawn in school with a pair of compasses – circles, spirals, five-pointed stars. I promise you, once you start looking at nature and searching for these common shapes, you will see them everywhere.
“And that’s because they are so useful to nature. The more you look at every leaf or seed or feather, you see that they have so much in common; they all work in the same way to keep life going.”
The royal mentor added: “And don’t forget that we have those patterns in us too, which is why it’s so important to spend this time looking at how nature works – it teaches us how we work too. It makes us realise that if we help nature thrive by making sure the soil is healthy, that there are trees, that there is birdsong, we thrive too.”
The daily challenges:
Plant a seed and watch it grow with Garden Organic, which promotes organic gardening and growing
Find an old egg box or rescue a pot from the recycling. Fill the pot with soil or cotton wool and scatter it with cress seeds or plant the seeds from some of the fruit or vegetables that you have eaten this week.
Draw an elephant with Elephant Family, which supports innovative solutions to human-wildlife conflict across Asia
What are the biggest leaves you can find? Can you create an elephant using the leaves as ears? Why not do a bark rubbing using a wax crayon or pencil to create some texture too.
Waterside Wednesday with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the UK’s leading wetland conservation charity
Visit your local pond, canal or seaside and count the number of different birds you can see, then try and identify them using the Trust’s identification sheets.
Make a miniature plate garden with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, one of London’s four UNESCO world heritage sites and a leading force in global plant science
Make a garden scene on a plate. Use flowers, plants and other materials from your garden, the park, the fridge or even your kitchen cupboards.
Paint a paperweight with the Wildlife Trust, which aim to restore at least a third of the UK’s land and seas for Nature by 2030
Find a stone, a pebble or a shell and paint it to look like an endangered animal, insect or bird that needs protecting, such as a hedgehog or a bee, or otherwise just a creature that you love.
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