Education services

Opportunities for schools and clubs

The Dorset branch of Butterfly Conservation can offer your school or club a number of valuable opportunities on our reserves and other wildlife sites, as well as in the school grounds themselves.

This fits in with the increasing emphasis now being placed on outdoor environmental education, with its accompanying benefits for physical and mental health, as well as developing awareness of the natural world.

Moth-trapping sessions in schools

  • We set up light traps overnight in the school grounds
  • The catch is analysed the next day, involving as many different classes as the timetable will allow
  • We have been doing this for many years, and our record number of species in one night was 125, showing that schools can have a staggering level of biodiversity in their grounds
  • All sorts of fascinating topics relevant to the curriculum can arise out of this work - camouflage, predation, food webs, life cycles, variation and evolution as well as some superb art work
  • We supply the handlenses, specimen pots and identification books as well as the light traps
  • After the sessions, all the moths are released back into the undergrowth to rest there until nightfall

Group of school children looking at moth catch

Bio-blitzes in school grounds

  • Many school grounds are wonderfully rich in wildlife and tend to be underused as an educational resource
  • We offer sessions in the school grounds to survey the flora and fauna, using magnifying lenses and bug boxes
  • This can lead onto a longer term project to analyse the biodiversity of the area
    Boy with Hawk-moth on finger

Educational visits to our Butterfly Reserves

  • Dorset has four Butterfly Reserves; we use those at Lankham Bottom (near Cattistock) and at Alners Gorse (near Hazelbury Bryan) in north Dorset (see our Places page for more detail) for this work
  • Educational Access agreements are in place which enable us to offer schools and other other educational groups guided visits to these reserves for a full day or half a day free of charge
  • We can offer advance visits for staff and discussions about the objectives of the visit, risk assessments, transport, timing etc.
  • Alners Gorse has toilet facilities and a wooden building (made by us out of our own timber!) which can be used as a shelter or a workshop and as a focus for camp cooking activities
  • We can also¬†offer environmental studies visits to other sites closer to the schools themselves if this is more practical
  • Topics covered can include:
    • Butterfly and Moth ecology
    • Habitats
    • The variety of life, with particular emphasis on insects, especially butterflies and bees (bumble bees are not only fascinating but are easy to catch and examine and fairly easy for children to identify as there are not that many species to choose from)
    • Life cycles of butterflies and their caterpillar foodplants


  • Visits to Alners Gorse and Lankham Bottom reserves are free
  • Field visits elsewhere and moth-trapping sessions for schools new to us are free for the first session
  • Otherwise, we charge a subsidised rate of a minimum of ¬£50 per day or part-day.

Leader's qualifications

Our Leader is Branch member Nigel Spring, who:

  • Is a former science and environmental studies teacher, with 14 years middle school experience
  • Set up and ran The Kingcombe Centre in west Dorset for 16 years
  • Since 2004, has been freelance in conservation and environmental education
  • Takes responsibility for the practical management on our four Dorset butterfly reserves
  • Is a director of EuCAN Community Interest Company, which works in the UK and other countries of Europe to involve more people and communities in the conservation of their local environment.

Nigel Spring unpacking a moth trap with lots of young helpers

Further information

See our Teacher's Pack for Alners Gorse, which tells you more about what we do and how it fits into your curriculum.