Learn at Ferne

It is only recently that Mark Hancock was appointed the very first Education Officer here at Ferne. Mark joined from Living Coasts (a coastal zoo) where he was the Education Officer for five years. He has had a very varied background, educating toddlers to pensioners about subjects varying from composting to super-hero senses.

Mark, “I have tried to ensure that everything I do in education:

  • Is inspirational – inspires people to want to look after the natural world and treat animals with respect.
  • Is fun – if the learning involves enjoyment it is more likely to be memorable.
  • Is stealthy – people don’t realise they are learning when they are having fun or being inspired!

(When I say people, I mean children and adults – nobody is too old to learn!)”

 Why have an Education Officer at Ferne Mark?

“The reason for doing education here is to make local people more aware of how to take good care of animals, treat them well, and to choose the most suitable pet for them. This also ultimately should lead to fewer animals coming into Ferne.”

Mark’s initial focus is to encourage more primary schools to visit Ferne.

“I have already been to most of the very local schools to ask teachers what they would like to get out of a visit, and this is helping me to develop our educational suite of offerings.”

These consultations have already helped realise my initial thoughts, which are that education at Ferne shouldn’t be limited to doing just the classic science topics such as habitats, adaptation, lifecycles, classification, food chains… (Which by the way Ferne is ideally suited to cover!)   Ferne is also a great place to get inspiration for a Literacy topic or text. Our herd of goats can help Three Billy Goats Gruff come alive in children’s imaginations, and we have chickens of all breeds and sizes to bring colour to Little Red Hen.

Teachers can choose from this suite of offerings, which are open to tweaking, or they can even ask for tailor made sessions.

“I realise school budgets are very tight so have made sure we provide excellent value for money. A completely self-guided visit is only £2 per child, and Learning & Discovery sessions or guided tours are only an additional £1 each.”

Mark also wants to ensure that all activities at Ferne have an educational element. For example the Easter ‘Bunny Balderdash (BB) or Rabbit Reality (RR)’ trail featured a trail sheet with 10 statements on.  The children had to decide whether they were BB (false) or RR (true) and when they found the cuddly rabbit toys hidden on site, they discovered some surprising facts about rabbits, their needs and how best to look after them.

Mark is also planning to do outreach visits to schools, lead Forest School and sensory activities for more than just school groups; work with local Brownies and Cubs to help complete badges; and even some adult education too.

There are several ways you can help Mark to do all of the above:

  • Volunteer to help with fun children’s crafts and activities over school holidays.
  • Spread the word that we are able to visit and welcome schools and other groups to Ferne with a variety of fun and thoughtful sessions.
  • Bring in any weird and wonderful wildlife biofacts/artefacts you may have as he would love to have an investigation station. This is an array of things that visitors can get close to and/or touch to help them understand and appreciate the wonders of the animal kingdom. This could be eggs, feathers, fossils, skulls, wasps’ nests…

The educational element of Ferne’s website is currently being developed, so the best way to find out more about Education is to contact Mark on 01460 65214 ext. 2021 or mark@ferneanimalsanctuary.org