LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A British charity launched its biggest survey of the wildlife in school yards on Monday, aiming to get thousands of children watching excitedly to find out which creatures share their playgrounds.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said its annual "Big Schools' Birdwatch" will run until February 1st .
Classrooms will be turned into bird hides, binoculars will be fixed to eyes and children will be staring out of the window -- with the blessing of their teacher.
"The Big Schools' Birdwatch provides an opportunity to introduce thousands of children to the wildlife visiting their school environment," RSPB head of youth and education Andy Simpson said in a statement on its website (www.rspb.org.uk).
Last year, a record 90,000 children and teachers from more than 2,000 schools took part.
More than 60 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows, to kestrels and even pheasants. The blackbird took the top spot in 2009, with an average of 5.03 seen per school.
To take part, students have been asked to watch and count the birds in their school grounds for a total of one hour over the two-week period, then send one set of results back to the RSPB detailing what they have seen.
Wild birds are an unbeatable teaching resource, the RSPB says. Colorful, active and abundant, they enthuse and inspire children about the nature outside their classroom windows.
The survey also provides a purpose for their observations and helps paint a picture of how birds in Britain are faring and which are the most common visitors to school grounds.
Simpson said the charity wanted governments to make a greater commitment to ensure every child has regular, quality, first-hand experiences of the natural environment.
"How can we expect them to care about the natural world if they don't experience and enjoy it," he said.
Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Steve Addison)