Autumn sessions

School Sessions on the Downs

During the autumn term, the changing sights and sounds of the Downs provide an inspirational outdoor classroom. The Downs become a patchwork of reds, golds and browns as leaves turn and berries ripen on the trees.

Your group might find themselves hunting for clues as mammal detectives or discovering amazing facts about trees on our tree trail. They could become trainee goat checkers on a ‘hairy conservationist’ session, or they might join us to explore the season, making autumnal art and finding out about the different strategies that animals use to survive the winter. They might also join us to find out about migration, making mapsticks to record their journey across the stunning landscape of the Gorge and Downs.

National Curriculum links

Our sessions have the following curriculum links: KS1 & KS2: Working scientifically; Living things and their habitats; Plants; Animals, including humans. The sessions outlined can be adapted to your requirements.

Autumnal art

Why do leaves change colour?

Immerse yourself in the nature of the Downs and find out how nature prepares for winter through a wide range creative activities. Using seeds, leaves and berries we’ll create sensational autumn art in our groups to show to others, just like Andy Goldsworthy. Or paint a canvas with nature’s colours, or make a y-stick or fashion a clay creature!

Suitable for: All years

Half day / Full day


Hairy conservationists

How can goats help the Bristol onion?
Explore what plants need in order to survive. Through storytelling and role play, learn how our famous goats are helping to save rare plants in the Avon Gorge. Children will be given the chance to become trainee goat checkers and, using binoculars, report back to the group on the health and happiness of these hairy conservationists. The session will include simple food chains. Older children can explore how the goats are adapted to this habitat and observe how environmental change can spell disaster for some living things.

Suitable for: KS1 and KS2

Half day

These sessions are run in partnership with Natural England as part of the Higher Level Stewardship Educational Access Scheme.

Mammal detectives

Whose poo is this?

Test your nature detecting skills as you come across nibbled seeds, funny footprints and a variety of poo! Which mammals have left their clues behind? Play some fun games to find out which senses UK mammals use and see which team can keep their mammal alive during the ‘night-time’.

Suitable for: Years 1 – 6

Half day / Full day

Miniature World – minibeast day!

Minibeast hunting

The importance of mini beasts to nature and our world

and how we can help them to thrive are the focus of this day. Follow a game of chance trail and understand the vital role mini beasts play in our world through the clues you find on your way. Learn about their importance as pollinators, decomposers and as part of the food chain. Delve into the deep as we pond dip to discover what lives in the freshwater habitat or, armed with bug viewers and magnifiers, go on a big minibeast hunt in the woods.

Suitable for: Years 1, 2 & 3

Half day / Full day

Woodland wonders

What’s this tree?

Find out fascinating facts and fabulous folklore and discover how important our trees are to people and wildlife on the Downs as we follow our Tree Trail. We’ll play a game to become part of a ‘living tree’ and get creative as we ‘interview’ one! Then with our creative juices working we’ll conjure up a poem or a story together using the natural world around us.

Suitable for: Years 1 – 6

Half day / Full day


Healthy habitats – habitats exploration!

The Downs is many habitats in one and home to so many plants and animals!

Come on a big bug hunt to discover what amazing creatures live in our exciting variety of habitats. Armed with dipping nets, bug pots, id charts and magnifying glasses, discover which mini beasts live in the pond and/or woodland! Become part of freshwater or woodland food webs to find out where all our species of plant and animal species find their food.

Suitable for: Years 2 – 6

Half day / Full day

Autumn antics

Hedgehog - Autumn antics

How do we survive the winter?

How do the Down’s woodland mammals and birds prepare for winter? Do they need to find a warm and dry place to hibernate or collect a store of nuts and acorns to draw on when food is scarce? Follow a trail into the woods to discover what hedgehogs, jays and squirrels do in the autumn as they prepare to survive the cold winter months. Can you keep a little vole warm enough to survive the winter’s ‘night’ and will it still be alive when you return in the ‘morning’?

Suitable for: Years 2 & 3

Half day / Full day

For further information and to book a session, contact us at:

Anna Stevens
Avon Gorge and Downs Biodiversity Engagement and Learning Manager

Conservation Education Centre, Bristol Zoo Gardens,
Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA

T: 0117 903 0609

Health & Safety Considerations

We carry out risk assessments for all sessions that we run.
We are trained first aiders.

Why not combine your trip to the Downs with a visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Learn about wildlife and habitats in the morning, have a picnic lunch and then visit the Suspension Bridge in the afternoon.

All photographs © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project.