Community Champion: Leanne Thomas Evans

Leanne Thomas EvansLeanne Thomas Evans
Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent

How are you using OPAL to make a difference in the community?

OPAL has given me resources, training and the knowledge to teach the groups that I am in contact with about the environment.  

I use the resources at the primary school where I work, in the local beaver, cubs and scout groups, at Forest School sessions and most recently at the local children’s park which is undergoing development.  

I also attend local events where OPAL is present to enjoy the activities with my family and further my nature knowledge.

How did you first discover/ get involved with OPAL?

I first met the OPAL representative, Barbara Brown, at an environmental event in Bryn Bach Park.  I was drawn to her as she had a display of butterflies, which I am extremely interested in.  

We chatted and she gave me her details as she thought she might me able to help me with the pupils that I work with.  I emailed her and she was more than happy to visit our school.  

What do you enjoy most about using OPAL resources/ what has been your favourite moment while using them?

Oak eggar moth caterpillarOPAL resources are simple to understand and can be used from small children, all the way up to adults.  

My favourite moment was finding Oak Eggar caterpillars at the Coity Tip site at Big Pit.  There were loads of them and they were really interesting to look at.  My children thoroughly enjoyed that too.

Which is your favourite OPAL survey and why?

My favourite is the Bugs Count Survey.  

I love bugs and really enjoy it when the children presume they’re not going to find much then discover how much life is actually around them. 

Where is your favourite place to enjoy nature and why?

I have no exact favourite place as I can enjoy nature anywhere.  

I’m very lucky as in Tredegar I have numerous different routes I can walk my dog and make new discoveries.  

It doesn’t always have to be a green area, as I’ve made some lovely discoveries in the city when I’ve seen a butterfly or spotted an interesting bug in a window box.

What is the most interesting/unusual/beautiful plant or animal you’ve ever seen?

Hummingbird hawk-mothDefinitely the Hummingbird Hawk-moth.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it.  I did actually think it was a Hummingbird at first, until I got closer and realised it was a moth.  

I also love seeing the Burnet Moths in the summer, making a chrysalis on a blade of grass then hatching out.

Who/what inspired you to work in your community?

My local community is very dear to me.  I think that I live in a lovely area with so much potential.  I want more for my area and am the type of person who likes to go out there and try to make it happen.

I’m a teaching assistant at my local primary school, and love sharing my passion for nature with the children.  I have two children of my own who have always enjoyed an outdoor life and are knowledgeable about their surroundings.  

I felt that this was knowledge that all children should have.  So my inspiration has been my children and seeing how keen they are to learn about what lives around us.

What advice would you give to people who want to encourage their communities to get involved in science and nature?

I’d definitely say ‘go for it!’  

Nature is fascinating.  The more people understand it, the more they will feel the urge to nurture it.  My children can have as much fun on a nature walk as they can at a safari park.  

Nature is free.  It’s forever changing and it wants us to notice it.  There are so many resources online that it’s easy for us all to have a little nature knowledge.

Any funny stories from working with a group, or any moments that made you proud?

I always feel proud when I see the delight on the children’s faces when they find something new.  I know a child that struggles in the classroom, but when his class did a project on snails he remembered everything I’d taught him from the bug hunts and became the ‘Star of the Week’ for his work.

About OPAL Community Champions

The OPAL Community Champions scheme aims to acknowledge the contribution made by individuals to the OPAL network, to thank people for their efforts, and to act as an inspiration for others.

Over the next few weeks and months we'll be profiling 20 Community Champions, nominated by OPAL's team of Community Scientists from across the UK.

Photo credits: Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar by Dean Morley (cropped), CC BY-NC-ND 2.0