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Education courses

Learn more about the natural world from local experts in an informal and friendly atmosphere and meet other people who share similar interests.

Northumbrian Botany class field trip, Long Byres, Shaftoe Crags © Janet Simkin

Courses cover a range of topics including geology, botany, astronomy and ornithology. Courses vary in length from 4-20 weeks, with many consisting of indoor classroom sessions and outdoor field trips. NHSN is fortunate to have experienced and knowledgeable course tutors. Student feedback has consistently rated the course content, teaching style and lecturers’ knowledge very highly.

Current and upcoming courses

NHSN members will receive an e-newsletter announcing when Spring/Summer 2019 education courses are open for booking. We will advertise our courses on the website here, each of which will include a link to Eventbrite where you can register and pay for a place.

Education courses are only open to NHSN members.  Everyone is welcome to join NHSN.

29th
April
2019

Summertime Geology (Monday)

Summertime Geology (Monday)

© Brian Young

Monday mornings starting 29 April, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Course tutor: Derek Teasdale
Course length: 8 weekly sessions
Course structure: 5 indoor sessions and 3 full-day field trips

The summer is a great time to visit the hills and coast.  Who needs more of an excuse to learn about and visit some of our most iconic geological localities:  Linhope Spout and Ingram Valley in the Cheviots, Cow Green Reservoir, and Upper Teesdale.

Cost: £70 (Concessions £60)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

30th
April
2019

Bird Song and Breeding Behaviour (Morning)

Bird Song and Breeding Behaviour (Morning)

Starling © David Noble-Rollin

Tuesday mornings starting 30 April, 10.15am – 12.15pm

Course tutor: David Noble-Rollin
Course length: 10 weekly sessions
Course structure: 4 indoor sessions and 6 field trips. N.B. Some field trips are a full day.

This course will cover spring migration, bird song and breeding behaviour of species living in the North East. Particular emphasis will be placed on the identification and interpretation of songs, calls and territory. Six field meetings will cover a wide range of habitats, including visits to woodland areas, hill valleys, the coast and the Farne Islands.

Cost: £88 (Concessions £78)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

30th
April
2019

Bird Song and Breeding Behaviour (Afternoon)

Bird Song and Breeding Behaviour (Afternoon)

Starling © David Noble-Rollin

Tuesday afternoons starting 30 April, 1.00 – 3.00pm

Course tutor: David Noble-Rollin
Course length: 10 weekly sessions
Course structure: 4 indoor sessions and 6 field trips. N.B. Some field trips are a full day.

This course will cover spring migration, bird song and breeding behaviour of species living in the North East. Particular emphasis will be placed on the identification and interpretation of songs, calls and territory. Six field meetings will cover a wide range of habitats, including visits to woodland areas, hill valleys, the coast and the Farne Islands.

Cost: £88 (Concessions £78)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

2nd
May
2019

Summertime Geology (Thursday)

Summertime Geology (Thursday)

© Brian Young

Thursday mornings starting 2 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Course tutor: Derek Teasdale
Course length: 8 weekly sessions
Course structure: 5 indoor sessions and 3 full-day field trips

The summer is a great time to visit the hills and coast.  Who needs more of an excuse to learn about and visit some of our most iconic geological localities:  Linhope Spout and Ingram Valley in the Cheviots, Cow Green Reservoir, and Upper Teesdale.

Cost: £70 (Concessions £60)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

4th
May
2019

Illustrating Spring Leaves

Illustrating Spring Leaves

Leaves © Alison Cutts

Saturday 4 & Saturday 11 May, 11.00am – 3.00pm

Course tutor: Dr Alison Cutts
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: 2 indoor sessions, with a short outdoor excursion

“If you can paint one leaf you can paint the world” – John Ruskin (1819-1900).

Leaves are a key identification feature and a critical part of any botanical description: on this short course, learn to observe and draw spring leaves with botanical artist, Dr Alison Cutts.

On the first day, we will begin with a simple leaf to look at the basics of observational drawing and leaf structure. After lunch we will draw a textured leaf and apply pencil shading to make the leaf look more realistic.

On the second day we will take a short walk to look at leaves in situ on the plant. We will set up a specimen to observe the arrangements of the leaves along the stem and how their shapes change in perspective, and then use these observations to plan and execute a small coloured ink drawing of a group of leaves.

No specific knowledge of botany or prior drawing experience is required – this is an introduction and all you need is to be prepared to have a go! All materials and specimens will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own, particularly a hand lens.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

8th
May
2019

Bird Photography

Bird Photography

Puffin Portrait © David Noble-Rollin

Wednesday mornings starting 8 May, 10.15am – 12.15pm

Course tutor: David Noble-Rollin
Course length: 6 weekly sessions
Course structure: 3 indoor and 3 field sessions

Bird photography is one of the most difficult yet potentially rewarding types of natural history photography. This short course will explore the techniques required to get high-quality, sharp images of birds using digital cameras. It is a practical field course with an introductory tutorial to lay out the techniques, camera settings and type of equipment that are needed to successfully take bird pictures.

Field trips to the Farne Islands, Cresswell Ponds and Saltholme Wildlife Reserve will allow ample opportunity to practise the techniques explored in the indoor sessions, including record, portrait, behaviour and flight shots.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

9th
May
2019

Summer Birdwatching (Durham)

Summer Birdwatching (Durham)

Thursday mornings starting 9 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm, at Shakespeare Hall, Durham

Course tutor: Keith Bowey
Course length: 10 weekly sessions
Course structure: 5 indoor and 5 outdoor sessions

From Pied Flycatchers to Little Terns: on this course, you will learn more about birdwatching and how better to identify birds you in the North East over the spring and summer seasons. The course will cover a variety of topics, all of which are designed to bring you greater enjoyment and understanding from watching birds.

Please note that indoor sessions will take place at Shakespeare Hall, Durham, DH1 4SQ.

Cost: £88 (Concessions £78)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

9th
May
2019

Summer Birdwatching (Newcastle)

Summer Birdwatching (Newcastle)

Thursday afternoons starting 9 May, 2.00 – 4.00pm

Course tutor: Keith Bowey
Course length: 10 weekly sessions
Course structure: 5 indoor and 5 outdoor sessions

From Pied Flycatchers to Little Terns: on this course, you will learn more about birdwatching and how better to identify birds you in the North East over the spring and summer seasons. The course will cover a variety of topics, all of which are designed to bring you greater enjoyment and understanding from watching birds.

Cost: £88 (Concessions £78)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

18th
May
2019

The Reptiles of North East England

The Reptiles of North East England

Adder © James Common

Saturday 18 May & Saturday 1 June, 11.30am – 3.30pm

Course tutor: John Grundy
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: Indoor sessions

Discover the reptiles of North East England in this crash course with herpetologist, John Grundy. Delve into the ecology, distribution and behaviour of the region’s reptile species, and leave armed with the knowledge necessary to find and ethically observe reptiles by yourself.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

18th
May
2019

A Crash Course in Warbler ID

A Crash Course in Warbler ID

Willow Warbler © Olive Taylor

Saturday 18 May, 10.00am – 4.00pm, and Sunday 19 May, 7.00am – 1.00pm

Course tutor: Keith Bowey
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: 1 indoor session, 1 field trip on each day

This two-day course will include an overview of warblers (their biology and taxonomy), information on British species and an account of those likely to be encountered in the North East. Each day will include a field trip designed to show attendees warblers in the field.

Please note that each day has different start and end times: the early start on Sunday is to take advantage of the singing period to listen to warblers in the field.

This course takes place in Blaydon Youth and Community Centre, NE21 5LU.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

30th
June
2019

Technological Naturalists

Technological Naturalists

Drone footage of GPNR © NHSN

Sunday 30 June & Saturday 6 July, 11.30am – 3.30pm

Course tutor: Cain Scrimgeour
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: 1 indoor session, 1 outdoor session

Ever-evolving technology allows us to explore the natural world in new ways, giving us new insights and opportunities to be enchanted. This two-day course will focus on the technological tools in the rucksacks of today’s naturalists, including an overview on the use of camera traps, drones, wildlife photography and apps. Discover how these tools are being used creatively to capture imagery, engage naturalists, and implement new survey techniques.

The outdoor session will take place at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

6th
July
2019

From Dippers to Dippy: an exploration of bird adaptation and evolution

From Dippers to Dippy: an exploration of bird adaptation and evolution

Dipper © Terry Cavner

Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 July, 10.00am-4.00pm

Course tutor: Keith Bowey
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: 1 indoor session, 1 field trip

Take a journey through the ages as you trace the evolution of British bird species, from the time of the dinosaurs to the present day. This two-day course will explore how birds have adapted to their habitats and lifestyles, and bird evolution that allows our modern day dinosaurs to thrive in the present age.

Location note: please note that this course takes place at different locations on each day.

The first day (Saturday 6th), will be ‘in the field’, and will comprise a ten-kilometre walking and birdwatching exploration of birds’ adaptations. This will start in the lower Derwent valley with dippers and end in the city with calling kittiwakes, meeting at 10am at the Land of Oak & Iron Visitor Centre at Winlaton Mill, near the A694.

The second day (Sunday 7th) will be largely classroom based in NHSN’s Council Room at the GNM: Hancock.  This session will build on the experiences of the previous day, touching on aspects of birds’ physical and physiological adaptations to their lives. It will also outline some of the current thoughts on birds’ origins, and link these – where possible – to ‘Dippy’ and other dinosaurs. The session will culminate with a visit to ‘Dippy’ in the GNM: Hancock.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

10th
July
2019

Macro Photography

Macro Photography

Wanderer © David Noble-Rollin

Wednesday mornings starting 10 July, 10.15am – 12.15pm

Course tutor: David Noble-Rollin
Course length: 6 weekly sessions
Course structure: 3 indoor and 3 field sessions

Macro photography brings a whole new perspective to our view of the world and creates hundreds of photographic opportunities to produce exciting and different pictures. This course will introduce attendees to the techniques needed to produce sharp, close-up pictures with apparent depth of field to cover the subject of the photograph.

Field trips to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, Alnmouth Dunes and Bishop Middleham Quarry will allow ample opportunity to practise the techniques explored in the indoor sessions, with subjects including insects and plants.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

13th
July
2019

The Art of Field Sketching

The Art of Field Sketching

Sketchbooks © Alison Cutts

Saturday 13 & Saturday 20 July, 11.00am – 3.00pm

Course tutor: Dr Alison Cutts
Course length: 2 days
Course structure: 1 indoor session, 1 outdoor session

The sketchbook is a place to experiment and record your observations of the natural world: join botanical artist Dr Alison Cutts to delve into the world of field sketching on this two-day course.

On the first day we will look at using a sketchbook and some of the practicalities of field sketching before going out into the museum collections for some indoor sketching. The second day will be outdoor sketching at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

No previous experience necessary. All materials will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own.

Cost: £65 (Concessions £55)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

17th
August
2019

The Art of Bones

The Art of Bones

Badger skull © NHSN

Saturday 17 August, 11.00am – 3.00pm

Course tutor: Dr Alison Cutts
Course length: 1 day
Course structure: Indoor session

At first glance, bones may seem a simple subject; with closer inspection, however, their intricacies become clear. Careful observation of the skeleton of any vertebrate is crucial to understanding how the animal stands and moves, and the bones themselves are fascinating in their own right. In this session with artist Alison Cutts, we will examine and draw articulations and individual bones from the GNM: Hancock’s collections, using a range of media to explore the interesting textures and colours of our specimens.

No specialist knowledge of bones or prior experience of drawing is required; you just need to be willing to have a go! All specimens and art materials are provided, but you are welcome to bring your own.

Cost: £35 (Concessions £30)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

31st
August
2019

The Art of Fossils

The Art of Fossils

Frosterley Marble © NHSN

Saturday 31 August, 11.00am – 3.00pm

Course tutor: Dr Alison Cutts
Course length: 1 day
Course structure: Indoor session

Paleoart is the depiction of prehistoric life from scientific evidence, principally the fossil record, and covers all kinds of representations from observational drawings of the fossils themselves to reconstruction of prehistoric plants and animals.

Timed perfectly to coincide with Dippy the Diplodocus’ visit to the GNM: Hancock, we will look at fossils from the collections to produce observational drawings and more experimental work using a variety of media.

No specialist knowledge of palaeontology or prior experience of drawing fossils is required; you just need to be willing to have a go! All specimens and art materials are provided, but if you have a favourite fossil of your own please bring it along.

Cost: £35 (Concessions £30)

Booking essential. To book, please go to Eventbrite here.

How to Book

To book a course please follow the Eventbrite link in the course description.

To enroll on our courses you must be a member of the Natural History Society of Northumbria. For details of membership click here.

Our courses vary in length, costs and the amount of time spent on field trips or in the classroom, so please check each course for details. All our courses are suitable for beginner and intermediate level unless stated otherwise.

For outdoor classes you will need to make your own way to the meeting point (although we encourage car sharing where possible). You will also need to be physically able to walk on unsurfaced paths and up steps/slopes.

Unless stated, classroom sessions take place either in the Great North Museum: Hancock or the University of Newcastle campus, both in central Newcastle upon Tyne.

Terms and Conditions

If you have questions about any of our courses, please contact us and we will be pleased to help, or you can download our full terms and conditions.

What Others Say

I really love being able to get to grips with specimens indoors, and then having the opportunity to see what we had studied actually growing outdoors. Fascinating!

Fiona Aungier, LOWER PLANTS STUDENT

I enjoy the course very much. Really, it’s just getting together with knowledgeable friends!

Barry McWilliam, QUATERNARY STUDENT

I like everything about my course! Our tutor is great, I really enjoy the field trips and you make friends with people who have the same interests.

Sylvia Jones, BIRDS OF THE NORTH EAST STUDENT

Having the courses in the Society’s home at the Great North Museum: Hancock enables us to look at the actual fossil specimens and appreciate them more.

Rose Kay, ORIGINS OF MAN STUDENT