Battling on in spite of the snow...

How many of you have had a day off work or school because of the snow? Lots I bet. We also got a day off last Wednesday, but other than that have been battling on regardless!  Last Thursday to Saturday we held a stand at the Association for Science Education conference in Nottingham.  It was a bit of a struggle getting up there (about 6 hours on the train!), but we spread the word amongst lots of teachers about our new lesson plans that we've developed as part of the OPAL Taxonomy project - another aspect of my job at the museum. Taxonomy is the science of naming and classifying living things and is really important to every aspect of biology.  You can't study a particular organism if you dont know what it's called and what makes it different from other similar organisms.

Classification is now part of the Key Stage 3 school curriculum, so we've made a set of three lesson plans for teachers, to help them teach classification in a fun way (which involves eating yummy foods!). You can download the lesson plans here.

We were also telling the teachers all about the OPAL national surveys, especially the Water Survey which is coming up this Spring.  If your school hasn't taken part in any surveys yet, point the teachers towards this website!

So what did I do on my snow day off last Wednesday? I went for a lovely walk in the woods near where I live and saw this big old oak tree. My local wildlife group Horsham Natural History Society had just held a talk about the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Hunt the week before. They are trying to map all the really old trees in the country because they are so important for wildlife.

To test if a tree is classed as 'ancient' you have to give it a hug (see photo of me hugging the oak tree!). If an oak is more than 3 hugs round it's probably an ancient tree.  Do you know of any big trees near you?  If you do, go out and give them a hug! Here's what you are looking for - the number of hugs needed for it to be ancient varies between species:

Oak – 3 adult hugs
Beech – 2 adult hugs
Birch – a wrist hug
Hawthorn – an elbow hug
Field Maple - 1 adult hug
Sweet Chestnut - 4 adult hugs
Ash - 2 adult hugs

I'll have to save my tree hugging for weekends now though, as I'm back in work as usual even though the snow hasn't really melted.  More snow due tonight though - maybe I'll get another snow day...