World renowned broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough once said that no one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.

With this in mind, and with a long history of successful educational campaigns under our belt, BirdLife Malta launched a new programme for children aged seven to 12 years titled Nature Guardians Warden for a Day.

The first course was held in autumn 2022, followed by a second one in spring 2023, leading us to the third upcoming course which will commence in October 2023, running until January 2024 (with a break for the Christmas holidays).

Children are nowadays too often starved of the outdoors with little to no green spaces for them to safely enjoy. Therefore, the main aim of the course is to take a group of children outdoors, to engage with nature and experience the beauty of nature – the scents, the colours, the touch, the challenges and the solutions.

Each course is open for a small group of children – a maximum of 12 – so that everyone can be given individual attention. Our experienced leaders handle the group which meets every Saturday morning for 12 consecutive weeks with visits to the G─žadira, Simar, Salina and Foresta 2000 Nature Reserves on the cards. To keep matters simple, the children always meet at Salina Nature Reserve.

Equipped with a booklet full of information on the sessions ahead, working gloves and a Nature Guardian-branded T-shirt and cap, or hoodie, the children experience what it entails in managing a nature reserve. They carry out water sampling, learning how salinity and oxygen levels impact the Mediterranean killifish, the national fish of Malta.

On other days, they build insect hotels and place these in the nature reserves, while at Foresta 2000 they build boxes which are used by hedgehogs to shelter in the winter months.

The children also learn propagation techniques and towards the last sessions, plant flora they grew themselves, while obviously birdwatching and the fascinating migration patterns of birds are also on the agenda.

Nature is well known to be beneficial for the well-being of the children, away from the stress of traffic, schoolwork, computers and social media

Twelve individuals soon become one closely-knit team with one of the sessions focusing on the importance of teamwork, with the way ants work together used as a barometer.

At the end of the course, a graduation ceremony is also organised, in which the children are rewarded with a certificate which declares them as graduated Nature Guardians.

The impact and importance of the course is not the certificate but the experience the children gain in engaging with nature, which is well known to be beneficial for the well-being of the children, away from the stress of traffic, schoolwork, computers and social media.

Children during the first <em>Nature Guardians Warden for a Day Course</em> last autumn.Children during the first Nature Guardians Warden for a Day Course last autumn.

To apply for the Nature Guardians autumn 2023 course, click here. The deadline for applications is September 15 (or before, if fully-booked).

For more details about the programme, including a calendar of sessions and what’s covered, visit https://birdlifemalta.org/2023/05/become-a-nature-guardian. For any queries, e-mail mark.gauci@birdlifemalta.org.

Mark Gauci is BirdLife Malta’s head of land management.

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