Teacher Judith Wrighte explains how she came to set up Falconry for Schools and the passion she still feels for the project:
When I am asked what first inspired me to put the Falconry for Schools project together, I always think, “Weights and measures”. I know it sounds strange, but that is how it started, while preparing a numeracy lesson. Back then, falconry was my new passion. I found myself thinking about it all the time and truly couldn’t switch off. My husband would say, “Do you ever think about anything else?” – he still does! Animal-assisted therapy has always intrigued me, in terms of encouraging disengaged students, and when I saw an article regarding the Countryside Alliance’s Fishing for Schools project, I knew I had to pitch my idea. So one afternoon, I asked my Learning Manager if I could bring one of my birds in, to show the students how I recorded its daily weight, thinking it would make an interesting alternative activity. I’ll never forget the look I got – I didn’t mention it again but I knew I had an idea that could work.
My love of falconry, combined with my biology knowledge and teaching experience, helped me to assemble a comprehensive learning package. Since then, I have led the Falconry for Schools project in 24 schools. However, I couldn’t just teach falconry in terms of hunting, and demonstrating the working relationship between the birds and the falconer. The project had to encompass history, science and technology, English and mathematics, as well as the social and emotional aspects of learning. The falconry parts of the project look at such areas as the history of falconry, ownership, housing, diet and training. The students have to imagine that they were a captive bird of prey, which ties in with Brambell’s Five Freedoms and the Animal Welfare Act. The project also encourages students to appreciate wild birds of prey, and teaches them how to identify birds by sight and sound. The project has been met with great success. In a school for boys aged 11-16 who have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, the students’ involvement impressed the staff, who had rarely seen such engagement. The birds’ calming influence was plainly evident and the boys handled them with tenderness and respect.
Overall, I have noticed an increase in self-confidence and team building. Most students have communicated with the birds with such affection, forming an amazing bond. This is incredible when you think that some children do not have a particular affinity for animals. The project has had a lasting effect on some students – one boy has continued to assist his classmates with their reading and as a result won a Princess Diana award for helping others.
With growing awareness (plus more funding and/or sponsorship), I hope to provide the Falconry for Schools package to other parts of the UK, getting more children involved in falconry and caring about nature.
If you know of a school who would benefit from a Falconry for Schools course please contact [email protected].
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