Monday, 18 July 2016
In the Field with Exam Students
Our Secondary and Sixth Form Programme, launched last year, has gone from strength to strength and proved to be an extremely effective way for 'A' Level and GCSE students to get 'hands-on' with some of the key areas of their Geography and Biology syllabuses. This year we have welcomed groups from Wymondham College, Notre Dame High, Greshams and Cliff Park Ormiston Academy to complete field work on our National Nature Reserve.
As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, our reserve boasts a unique diversity of habitats: grazing marsh, pine woods, reedbed, foreshore, sand dunes and saltmarsh. Students visiting us this year have really appreciated the chance to discover, first hand, how these habitats work and interact and to hone their practical field study skills. These practical skills have once more become extremely important, with current examination specifications moving towards much more practical centred courses.
Under scrutiny have been our fantastic system of sand dunes, the newly evolved saltmarsh in Holkham Bay, both our pine and mature mixed woodlands, and also the conservation methods used around our vast farmland. Several surveys of Psammosere succession were completed, with varying data collected at different times of the year. Many key field study skills, such as measuring incline, species diversity, light, wind speed and air temperature were learnt. Soil samples were taken and tested and flora identification practised.
As well as the natural aspects of the Holkham landscapes, students looked at the human interaction with the land. They analysed coastal defence systems and the variables that affect and influence decisions made by local councils and other strategic organisations. Cost/benefit analyses were drawn up for the town of Wells-next-the-Sea and students spent time with our reserve wardens, discussing their task of conserving the almost 4000 hectare National Nature Reserve and its 18 km coastline. Just how can you reach an ecological balance when faced with the forces of nature, climate change and 1 million visitors a year?
All our schools agreed that their experience was a fantastic motivational boost for students, as the content of text books was put into context out in the field. So many new skills and techniques were learnt and practised, and invaluable data was collected, to be taken back to school for use in assessed project work. They also all had a lot of fun!