A Captive Audience

Testing a new activity with school age children

A Captive Audience

Testing a new activity with school age children

Capacity to Deliver -


The issue

When you are developing a new activity that is to be used with school age children to help them engage and think about the environment it is hard to find and develop age appropriate activities. An activity that can be used with various age groups is also hard to develop without practice and refinement. Parts of an activity may be a little beyond some age groups and other parts may be too simple and not thought provoking enough.

The solution

Being invited to run some activities with the Broken Hill School of The Air students at their recent end of term mini school is a great place to start. The children are there to have fun, catch up with their mates and learn some things together. These days are really important for the social development of the children. In the last couple of years Western Landcare has been developing several ‘hands on’ environmental activities that can be taken into schools to encourage the students to think about various things including pest animals, habitat and sustainable farming.

We have been wanting to add to our array of activities this year and came up with a positive discussion around insects and how effective they are as pollinators, predators and waste converters and the benefits of having them in our garden. We did some research on line and decided that we could make an ‘Insect Hotel’. As a lead up to this hands-on activity we decided to take the children for a walk and collect the materials. While we were walking, we talked about the different insects that we saw and what they were doing. We talked about where they live in the environment and why they might live there and how we could encourage them to live a little closer to our houses. After the children had collected some dry leaves, sticks, old seed pods and anything else they thought an insect could live in, on or under, we headed back to the classroom to build our insect hotel.

The activity of making the insect hotel started with talking about what sort of things around the home we could use and that allowed us to talk a little about recycling things.  We talked to the students about why they were putting that particular piece or material into the insect hotel and what sort of insects did they think that they could attract by placing it in there. A huge dialogue opened up about all the good insects that they wanted to have in their gardens and why they wanted them there.

The impact

An activity like this should be designed to get children thinking about their environment and the impact they have on it. The children were all of a sudden talking about encouraging bees to their garden to pollinate their fruit and vegie plants. They were talking about ants that were cleaning up all the extra food that they had dropped at lunchtime. They also had huge discussions about wanting to watch predatory insects, such as Lady Beetles, eating other insects. No one mentioned the pesky flies and the biting mosquitoes for a little while.

Key facts

  • A good activity can be used across all age groups with only slight variations.
  • A lot of the discussions that take place should be discovered by the children.
  • A clear ‘take home message’ is important for a child’s knowledge to be satisfied.
  • 'Hands on' activities with kids can impart lasting environmental knowledge.