Is conservation going backwards?


Not been getting much chance to post recently with the workload but after reading about the badger cull pilots getting the go ahead I though it was important to raise this issue.



In the world of conservation we are always being told to help the Giant Panda or Bengal Tiger yet the animals on the verge of extinction are not the only concern. Sometimes we forget about the animals and environment on our doorstep. With hindsight extinctions both locally and globally could have been prevented but society had different priorities and less scientific insight in the past. Wolves were a common predator so were exterminated from most of Europe and the US. There are 63 mammals classed as ‘conservation dependant‘ and conservation costs money.

Panda Gao Gao in San Diego Zoo, USA

In the US, wolves have been reintroduced, at a cost. Now some states are allowing hunters to shoot them, against scientific advice. In Sweden, a wolf cull was blocked legally by conservation groups since it was not a viable cull. In the UK, foxes have been labelled an urban menace by politicians who suggested a cull, against scientific advice. In the UK, a badger cull pilot has just been given the go ahead, against scientific advice. No doubt there are other examples of countries trying to cull/reduce populations of native animals even if the scientific community are against it.



This post is just a personal rant after seeing the latest badger cull get the go ahead but if we don’t maintain current populations of animals not at risk through scientifically approved methods, we run the risk of adding to the ever-increasing endangered species list and having to spread conservation budgets ever thinner.





Canada; second only to Yorkshire

My visitor count has recently been inundated with Canadian visits so I thought I’d dedicate a post to why Canada is my favourite country.

Having relatives in Ontario, I first visited Canada after my GCSEs in 2004. I spent 6 weeks between; Oakville, south of Toronto; Aurora, north Toronto and Brockville, on the St Lawrence. The one thing I always remember being in awe over was how friendly Canadians are! Although I think my accent had something to do with it in some cases (almost all commented on it!), the Canadians seemed innately friendly and helpful. Unlike the cattle market feel of British shops, checkout assistants seemed genuinely interested in chatting while you made purchases and everybody had a friendly way about them.

This attitude may have something to do with their weather. In my opinion they get the best of both worlds. Their summer, at least in southern Ontario, is much hotter (and less wet!) than ours; I burnt my neck with factor 50 on! Yes I burn easily but never THAT easily in England. Then in winter, they get tonnes and tonnes of snow! Who wouldn’t be cheerful with both sunbathing AND snowmen in the same back garden?

My second trip was for a week last February when I stayed in Peterborough, Ontario. The trip was amazing and again, I met a lot of friendly people, whom I’m still in touch with now and who introduced me to the amazing game of Catan! I will definitely be visiting again and by then I will have a separate blog dedicated to traveling, where I’ll post all the adventures :).

Finally, the icing on the cake is that Canada has a fantastic population of wolves! If I could, I’d be living over there right now 🙂

Urban fox – friend or foe?


Fox (Photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos)

Anyone who has seen an urban fox, as I have, will know that although surrounded by an urban jungle they will shy away from you the moment you get near. I have seen two foxes in Sheffield City Centre, both when it was very quiet and both times the fox just strolled past (at a distance) and dived into the first hedge they could find.

Many of you will have read of a baby’s finger being severed by a fox recently in London, and you may remember the baby sisters mauled by a fox in 2010 as they slept. This type of attack, although tragic, is a rare occurrence to say there are 33,ooo urban foxes in the UK and 10,000 in London alone. The above attacks are mentioned here.

Put this figure next to another urban nuisance; the cat. There are around 800,000 feral cats, that roam our urban districts. Cats, which are certainly more willing to approach humans, can bite and scratch as almost anyone who has been on the wrong side of one can vouch for. And when I quoted the figure 800,000, I ignored the 9 million pet cats, many of which also roam freely around our urban and suburban areas. I’m not suggesting we cull cats, just putting the so called ‘nuisance’ into perspective. Lets look at another animal found in ALL urban areas; the dog. Now, I also get annoyed at the negative media portrayal of dogs every time there is an attack. albeit rare, dogs do attack and in some cases kill, more children than foxes.

Foxes hunt rats in the cities, rats spread disease and can enter households much easier than a fox. Foxes rarely rummage through bins, especially now the majority of bins are plastic wheelie bins! Most foxes only eat scrap food when it is fed to them by people who leave it out in their garden because they want foxes to visit. In my opinion, foxes are a true representative of urban ‘nature’ whereas cats and dogs are not, yet they produce many more issues and even cause more of a nuisance to gardeners.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has urged councils to tackle the increasing ‘menace’ of urban foxes however there is no hard evidence that the number of urban foxes has increased (one study found that they have decreased in some areas due to disease epidemics) and culls are known to be ineffective since new foxes just move into the newly presented territory.

As a final note on the subject, there are approximately 28,000 facial dog bites REPORTED in the UK with numerous deaths. These figures are easy to find through google. Fox attacks are harder to find, after trawling google I found 3 cases; the recent finger severing, the baby sisters in 2010 and a young boy being bitten after disturbing a fox under the garden shed, so lets not get the pitch-forks out just yet Boris. Here is the fox website for more information on urban foxes.

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses ... 



Engaging LAPs in recount

Today I delivered a literacy speaking and listening lesson to feed into a writing session on recount, in the context of a diary entry.

What struck me most was how engaged my LAPs were (lower than average ability) and they in fact seemed the most keen on transferring their work into a written activity. To warm them up into speaking and listening I displayed the question ‘how would you decide who to share your sweets with if you only had two left?’ and got them discussing this as soon as they walked into class. This question, by the way, directly related to my input which was a Pixar clip relating to a similar decision.

The clip was ‘one man band’ and lacks any dialogue. After watching the clip, children had to write down how each character would have felt on post-it notes, sticking these onto character pictures in small groups. They also had to stick speech bubbles around the characters to indicate what others would say about them; here I extended the above average children by going into how others would feel, as well as how they would describe the character.

Following this activity, the groups hot seated each other as one of the characters and we looked at questioning techniques. They were able to take any ideas that came up for their diary entries into their literacy books.

This is where my LAPs seemed to shine; when I brought the groups together into 3 big groups for hot seating, the children who usually struggled were better able to get on independently.

On Monday we will be focusing on writing and creating a diary entry as one of the characters. Lets hope this engagement feeds into their writing :). Obviously this isn’t a minute by minute guide to my lesson, I’ve just included the main activities. If anyone is trying to teach recount writing to level 2 writers then ‘one man band’ may be a good idea to hook them in.

Wolves in Britain – A quickie

Back at University, I wrote an essay on wolf conservation with an emphasis on its reintroduction to Great Britain. I was hoping to get the essay onto my blog but alas, I can’t find it on this computer. If it isn’t on my old computer when I get chance to check then I will have to spend some time on writing a decent post regarding this issue. So, I thought I would write a brief one as I won’t have time to get into a reasoned argument until half term (only 2 weeks now!).

Gray wolf. Français : Loup. Nederlands: Wolf T...

Wolves were eradicated from this country around 400 years ago, largely through persecution. There is a large body of evidence showing that re-establishing a wolf population in Scotland (maybe Yorkshire is a bit optimistic) would actually be good for the Scottish ecosystem AND boost tourism. Opposition comes largely from the sheep farming industry however, a compensatory system for any sheep losses could be offset by this projected increase in tourism.  This is basically just an introduction to my main post on the matter, which I want to try and dedicate an entire day to writing so I can really hammer it home and show you where a lot of the evidence I use comes from. It would be great to hear your initial thoughts on reintroducing wolves to Scotland, and I will incorporate these into the next post 🙂

Country of the week

I’ve noticed that a lot of adults, let alone children, have a terrible knowledge of political geography. Many have not even heard of some countries, let alone know their capital cities or where they are in the world. To help my class get one up on the world I’ve been running ‘country of the week’ where we have a small display and link each country, however I can, to the current topic. A lot of the work we put up is now done at home by choice and therefore doesn’t take up any class time.

To start with I used my guided reading sessions and had one group focusing on sentence work using information books on that country. I still do this now but also offer team points for any work brought in from home which encourages the children to write at home.

We started with European countries during the Autumn term. This half term we are doing North America and after the half term holiday we will cover South America. For now I’m going to recap the links I made for some of the countries and after this post I will start writing a weekly, detailed post on each country we cover; this week is Mexico. Since the photos of my displays are on my phone I will also post a separate, photo only post to go alongside this one (apologies for this being text only, I always find them less enthusing).

Great Britain
For our first week back in September, we focused on our own country so the children could write about places they had visited within Great Britain over the summer holidays. We also recapped and discussed the Olympics.

France + Norway
The topic for Autumn term was ‘Defending the Realm’ with a starting focus on the Norman Conquest therefore it was ideal to have our 2nd and 3rd countries as France and Norway; this way there was an instant link with William the Conqueror and Harald Hardrada. We also did some French since this is the language our school uses for MFL.

One of our children is originally from Bulgaria, so this was an opportunity to explore their culture and it helped them overcome some reluctance to writing. This is a good idea for any classes with a large proportion of children with English as a second language.

Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland
We went through these Scandinavian countries towards the end of the term so there was a good link to descriptive writing and winter scenery. It was also possible to link Christmas activities to country of the week through reindeer in Lapland.

This term the science topic is space. To hook the children into this topic I used NASA as a link to country of the week. There will be a post shortly on some of the science lessons I’ve taught around the national curriculum ‘Earth and beyond’.

Photo’s to come soon 🙂