January 2024

Meet our Build for Birds expert, David Pallash

Don't forget to take part in our competition!

It’s been such a brilliant week; on Tuesday, January 23rd, I helped to deliver the ‘Build for Birds Live Lesson’ for schools that we hosted with our partner, The Day.  And Wow, what a lesson! 

We streamed from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s London Wetland Centre with bird conservationist and photographer Lara Nouri leading the session, sharing her knowledge and giving a tour. I knew it would be an exciting event, but as always, I was blown away by the collective energy and positivity generated from the thousands of pupils who took part. We had over 300 schools join us live and it was such a thrill to connect with them and share their enthusiasm and passion for conservation. 

It was genuinely uplifting. If you didn’t make it, don’t worry. We’ve made the lesson available for you to watch on-demand here: Build for Birds – Build the Change Live Lesson: LEGO Group and The Day News. And to build on the success of last weeks’ live lesson, we have just launched a brand new competition! But more on that later.

Let’s rewind a little…I want to tell you where my passion for ornithology – and the inspiration behind the live lesson – all came from…

I joined the LEGO Group’s Social Responsibility team eight years ago, and for the last three years, I have had the privilege of working on the LEGO Group’s Build the Change program which aims, through learning through play experiences, to connect more children around the world to planet and people topics.  

This programme gives them the opportunity to use their creativity to design wild and wonderful ideas that help others. Not only that, we are focused on providing a platform for young people to share their ideas, so that more grown-ups – everyone from politicians to architects – can hear what they have to say. In my experience, when given this opportunity,  young people are inspiring  and I believe we should all learn to put greater value on the ingenuity of childrens’ minds in shaping their future.

Fun, right?

Loads of fun! But at the same time, super serious. We need young people to be at the decision-making table. To be heard and empowered. 

I used to be a teacher, a role I also felt incredibly privileged to perform. Day in, day out, my class travelled the world, learnt about different cultures and, wherever possible, learnt about natural history. Nurturing that fascination children have with wildlife is something I hold incredibly vital, especially with the sheer number of challenges facing the biodiversity of the planet.  Unfortunately it isn’t something that’s universally prioritised. But I remember keenly the magical pull of the natural world. Something  I felt when I was at school.

Up until the age of ten, I lived in the USA. It was during that time that my brother and I started exploring the world beyond our garden, stepping into streams, looking under rocks, venturing into – to us at least – lands undiscovered. That’s where my love of wildlife took hold. Snakes, turtles, toads, frogs, lizards, salamanders, crayfish, scorpions and spiders – you name it, we wanted to study it up close!

Then we moved back to the UK. My world became smaller again as I adapted to and explored a new set of landscapes, climates and species. Don’t get me wrong… the UK has such rich natural history, but let’s just say reptiles, which were my passion at that age, were less accommodating than those in Georgia, USA. 

That’s when it happened… or that’s when birds happened.

I started to notice the birds in my garden. First it was the more common species: blue tits, goldfinches and blackbirds. Then I started to notice the birds change with the seasons:  spotted flycatchers and cuckoos in the spring; redwings and fieldfares which would appear late autumn. These tiny birds were choosing my garden to spend time in. How lucky was I!

Birds took over. Yes, I did all the other things that teenagers do, playing music, hanging out with friends etc, but wildlife, especially birds, became a constant fixture.

Fast forward a few decades and I am still on a mission to see and document as many birds and wild animals as possible.

Sadly, I have also started to see things drastically change. Cuckoos and spotted flycatchers are now an uncommon sight, turtle doves will likely be extinct in the UK within 20 years and common garden birds are struggling.

We all know the plethora of reasons why this is happening but there is still hope, and it sits with young people.

To revert to my earlier point, children and their creativity know no bounds. Give them a challenge and they will come up with thousands of incredible ideas to better something. We need to listen to these ideas. We need to give them platforms to amplify their voices, not as a PR gimmick but to genuinely hear them and involve them. With sincerity and belief.

So, to build on the success of last weeks’ live lesson, we have launched a brand new competition! We are asking students to come up with ways to make their school a safer place for birds to rest, feed and shelter. Students should design their solutions on paper, then create a 3D model out of LEGO bricks or recycled materials and submit it to our judges. And we’ve got some fantastic prizes for the winners! Head over to www.theday.co.uk/build-the-change-build-for-birds where you can find out all the info on how to take part. It’s open until the 5th of March so plenty of time to get your creative ideas flowing!

School’s can sign up to receive the free Build The Change Tuesday resource by visiting theday.co.uk/build-the-change . Every Tuesday, The Day and the LEGO Group provide a news-led sustainability resource for students aged 7-14 years old, to be worked on as part of their school lessons. This resource brings them up to speed on sustainability news, allowing them the opportunity to think critically about, discuss and debate a new sustainability issue every week. Pupils are then encouraged to apply everything they’ve learned by designing and building their own solution to the sustainability problem. This unique ‘learning through play’ resource also develops literacy, communication, creative thinking and interpersonal skills. 

Click here to register for our weekly News Detectives: Build the Change Tuesdays resource.