A couple of months ago as part of a Science Week programme, our school welcomed Adrian Hagatis from WWF Romania who came in to talk to a group of thirty students about the work he has been doing in partnership with Rewilding Europe. Adrian drove for three hours to give the talk at no fee, which focused on examples of rewilding in Romania. The talk was well prepared, informative and pitched at an appropriate level. Most of the students in attendance study Biology GCSE or A – level, save for a few keen Key Stage 3 pupils, so it was relevant to the ecology and conservation units that form part of their respective courses. More than this, the talk gave students an impression of the amazing wildlife found within their country of residence and some of the challenges they face. I think too often when reading conservation news and, to a lesser extent, biology syllabi content we are left feeling hopeless at the plight of threatened species.
Adrian’s talk was optimistic, largely focused on the solutions to some of the problems facing species in Romania today, from sturgeon to bison. This left pupils feeling positive but at the same time acutely aware of what they stand to lose as Romanian, European or global citizens without significant action. From reading between the lines of the feedback I received, pupils enjoyed listening to an expert working in the field who could give insights into real examples beyond what a teacher in the classroom could ordinarily tell them!
The school made a donation to WWF Romania to show our appreciation and I have spoken to members of their education department about building a long-term relationship that will involve Sixth Form students going to visit European bison release sites. Two of my Year 12 biologists were particularly inspired by the talk, staying behind to ask Adrian questions about back-breeding eurochs and his opinions on mammoth cloning. He dealt with the questions in a sensitive matter-of-fact way that satisfied the pupils’ curiosity until we had to call it time for next period. I must make sure a trip is planned to take place before this time next year when these pupils will be sitting their final A2 exams.
Given that a lot of our pupils are from powerful, influential Romanian families I hope a few of them took home the message and raised awareness in parents. Perhaps it will shape some of the students’ own decision making after they land or inherit powerful positions themselves. Here’s hoping.