Placements and mature students – Studland student blog

Emma Douglas

An amazing opportunity and fantastic experience!

My tutor at college mentioned in passing one day that we had been offered the opportunity to apply for a placement at Dunescapes based at Studland Bay National Trust.  This was usually open to University Students but was now open to us at KMC doing the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation course too.

So I thought what the hey let’s give this a go and see if I can be accepted on this placement. Even though I would only be available for 3 rather than the 5 days that were on offer.

A landscape view of sand dunes, sea and bushes of blooming purple heather.
Studland Dunes by Neil Davidson

As a mature student with a family and mortgage I still have to work in paid employment for 2 days a week – although this hasn’t held me back, it has limited what I have been able to do voluntary wise. I was worried  that as I couldn’t commit to the full 5 days this may be a stumbling block but on meeting Julia and explaining my situation she was happy to take me on.

Oh my and how happy am I that she did! These last 6 weeks have been amazing, hard work (harder than I expected), educational and above all else such fun!

I have helped with and led years 2, 7, 10 and 11 school groups.  Year 2 was delightful! We tried out an experiment to find meteor dust in the sand at Knoll beach by dragging magnets through the sand – whether we found meteor dust is debatable, apparently about 10% of the metal filings we found may have been from meteorites but regardless of whether or not it was, the children really enjoyed just the fun of running about and playing with magnets. We did find a lot of filings which most the children found really interesting – as did the teachers!

The older year groups were at Studland to do plant, insect or sand dune surveys  - which meant I had to A) learn what we were supposed to identify and B)  learn how to do the survey.  Not to mention learning all about the Dunes themselves so I could actually do the welcome presentation.

A nightjar
A nightjar

A notable day was  unfortunately disturbing a nightjar on the very first survey we were doing.  It  was nesting directly along the transect line.  Lucky as I was on that transect for the other surveys we were able to avoid disturbing it again.  I did however see its nest, such as it was and a single egg within it. Later during the placement I helped on a Nightjar walk where we heard a few birds and were able to see one in flight – it was such a nice evening being out walking during the night which is not something I or the people who were on the walk regularly do anymore and reminded me it is something I should do more often.

Another day myself and one other placement student led a litter pick, originally when I saw this on the rota I thought it may be a typo but  it was indeed a naturist litter pick. It was probably one of the coldest days that we had during placement and turnout was low but once my initial nerves had subsided it was just like any other litter pick. Oh worth pointing out we were not naked, only the gentlemen who joined the pick were.  Photos were taken at the end and I am still waiting to hear if they have made the cut for the quarterly magazine.

Probably the best but most tiring day way the sustainability day at Swanage school, where we had to prepare and deliver  a 2 hour interactive presentation to year 7s some of whom we had previously met on one of the surveys, the kids were really engaged and engaging and asked questions and found solutions that were really insightful.  I definitely took something away from that day and hope the kids did too.

Or maybe the best day was the day I managed to fit in a swim so I could collect seaweed for a presentation we were doing to the Swanage Disabled Society, we were warned there was a likelihood the people we were presenting to may fall asleep but no one did and they all seemed to really enjoy the afternoon!

There have been so many good days, I haven’t even covered my personal project time which is to walk the advertised walks around Knoll Beach. Seriously, I’m being asked to walk lovely scenic walks and report back about them!  Or the Nature Tots mornings we have been leading each Monday, or the Ukrainian Refugee Wellbeing day, all of which have been really rewarding and enjoyable.

I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve had on this placement and the other placement students I have been working with have been great, all of us come from different  courses and have different knowledge on different subjects so I have learnt lots from them too. I hope I have been able to pass on some of my knowledge to them as well.