Thousands of children from across Europe and Africa are to be brought together in a pioneering project to create a new generation of conservationists.
The osprey is being used to capture the attention of pupils. Satellite data showing the progress of the bird along its annual migration routes is being used in an interactive map which allows schools to follow the flights of birds tagged with GPS trackers.
Launched at ospreys.org.uk, it is the expansion of a pilot project in which several schools in Gambia – where the osprey spends the winter – have partnered with schools in England, where some breed each summer.
The pilot project began in 2011, but this year will involve schools from countries along the migration route, said Tim Mackrill, from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, which manages the "flyways" project. "This is the first project to enable schools to link up through the migration of this particular bird," he said. Schools in Spain, Morocco, Finland, Ukraine, Italy and Estonia have already signed up.
Campaigners are fighting government proposals which would scrap references to children being required to be taught "to care for the environment". They fear the move will undermine pupils' understanding and appreciation of nature, according to the Wildlife Trusts. It is appealing for people to oppose the curriculum changes online at: education.gov.uk/consultations.
"It is very worrying if the Government is planning to reduce the importance placed on learning about the natural environment," Mr Mackrill said.