This project began as a series of guided walks designed to introduce young people to the different ‘ways’ in which scientist, musicians and poets have developed for listening to birdsong. Following a symposium at the University of Bristol, academics worked closely with local schools and wildlife charities such as the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project to develop educational and creative learning activities. With funding from the Wordsworth Trust and the British Association for Romantic Studies, a second series of walks was developed for young people in Cumbria. When these activities were sadly cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, attention turned to developing an online podcast-style learning resource that young people could listen to at home with their families or at school with their teacher. Creative Scotland’s Sustaining Creative Development Fund provided me with the funding, training and resources necessary to create this resource. The British Library’s Sound Archive and the School of Scottish Studies supplied many of the wildlife and sound recordings which brought the audio to life.

A full account of this project and the rationale behind it is due to be published in a collected volume of essays Poetry and Sustainability in Education (in press; Palgrave, 2022) and a print learning resource for teachers is also due to appear in Literature for Change: How Educators Can Prepare the Next Generation for a Climate-Challenged World (in press; Lexington, 2021). If you would like to hear more or work with me collaboratively on this and other projects, contact Francesca Mackenney: waysoflisteningtobirdsong@gmail.com.

This project could not have happened without Mandy Lievers and Sophie Thomas, who offered support, encouragement and creative insight at crucial stages of this project – and to whom I extend my full and sincere thanks here.

— Francesca Mackenney

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