After the long slog of winter, pupils at Evelyn Community primary school in Merseyside are getting outside with a mission in mind: to count and record the number of different bird species in the school grounds. The challenge is part of the Big School’s Bird Watch, an event which last year involved 73,000 school children and their teachers.

But the children have been taking an active interest in the wildlife at their school for a while. Since creating a garden in an unused corner of their field more than two years ago, the pupils have attracted a variety of birds. They’ve planted wildflower seeds, created a vegetable plot, made bird nests, and learned about biodiversity. The school has a wicker bird hide and has bought binoculars to encourage bird spotting all year round.

The school’s headteacher, Carole Arnold, says the impact of the children’s work on biodiversity in the garden has been significant. A group of 12 children spend time in the garden each week, for a full term, before giving a new group their turn. “Our school field had absolutely no birds at all [before]. It’s really given the children a love of wildlife,” she says.

Many kids don’t know how life cycles work, or can’t connect what they see in the garden to the food in supermarkets.

The number of schools using gardens and the natural world to teach students continues to increase. The campaign for school gardening, a programme run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), now has 20,000 school members, with 81% growing plants specifically to attract wildlife and pollinators.

Read more on the importance of teaching children about nature by Emma Sheppard at The Guardian