Munching Caterpillars schoolchildren

A caterpillar café will appear on the streets of Bristol as part of an innovative project to reconnect inner-city children with nature.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) is taking its ‘Munching Caterpillars’ project into primary schools across the city to teach children about butterflies and moths and how they can help pollinating insects thrive in an urban environment.

BC’s Education Officer, Kate Merry, said: “This is the first time a project like this has come to Bristol and we hope to show children just how important butterflies and moths are and what they can do to help them.

“We know that green spaces aren’t always accessible to children in towns or cities, but this is all about bridging that gap and helping them to engage with nature. We will be encouraging wildlife right in to their school grounds, showing them that you don’t need to be near the countryside or have a garden to experience wildlife. We are grateful to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and our other funders for supporting this project.”

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have provided nearly £16,000 of funding through the Postcode Local Trust for the project, along with significant donations from the Ernest Cook Trust, BC’s Somerset and Bristol Branch and the Bristol Naturalists’ Society.

Funding will allow a newly recruited Project Officer to deliver workshops and activities for the children, such as rearing caterpillars in the classroom, planting nectar-rich flowers and making video diaries. It will also be used to provide resources for teachers, like a guide on how to make school grounds more caterpillar and butterfly friendly.

The ‘Munching Caterpillars’ project will also take to the streets through the world’s first pop-up ‘caterpillar café’, which will attend events and tour popular sites around Bristol, promoting the use of pot plants on balconies or pollinating plants in window boxes.

Kate added: “The caterpillar café looks like an old-fashioned ice-cream cart, but instead of children choosing their favourite flavour, on the menu will be nectar-rich flowers and caterpillar foodplants and in place of cones, we will have plant pots and compost!”

The city’s university students will also be contributing to the project thanks to a partnership with the University of the West of England. It will mean student volunteers will support the ‘Munching Caterpillars’ Project Officer during school visits and at events.

The ‘Munching Caterpillars’ educational project was piloted across Dorset and Somerset between 2012 and 2015, reaching around 14,000 children, but this is the first time the project has been taken into a city.

If the project is a success, BC hopes to expand it into other towns and cities across the country.