Community Champion: Nicky Hodge

Nicky HodgeNicky Hodge
Rhyl, North Wales

How are you using OPAL to make a difference in the community?

We are using the surveys to work with local kids and youth groups and all the local schools, give them a chance to get outside and learn something new. The surveys are a good way of doing that.

How did you first discover/get involved with OPAL?

I work for Rhyl Adventure Playground Association (RAPA) in West Rhyl and spend a lot of time with the local kids. Everyone knows me because I’m from round here, and I know what it’s like growing up here.

OPAL came and did a soil survey and the water survey with us and it started there. We're now working together on the Cob Roundhouse Project and we were trying to get everyone in the area involved, so we’ve been running some surveys on the site during the summer and now we're going around the local schools and getting them involved as well… people are getting interested.

Water survey bookletWhat do you enjoy most about using OPAL resources / what has been your favourite moment while using them?

Getting to meet other people, learning and understanding the other side of nature. We did a water survey with the boys from the local school referral unit and seeing how engaged they were during the session was amazing, as soon as we found bugs in the water they really zoned in and they were totally different kids for that half an hour… just shows you.

Which is your favourite OPAL survey and why?

The Water Survey and I like the Tree Health Survey because the kids got into measuring the height of the trees and seeing if they got the same answer. I like the soil one as well because it’s like a proper experiment with the mustard and the water, the kids were digging for ages when we did the Soil Survey.

Where is your favourite place to enjoy nature and why?

I’m lucky to live here and I get to work outside every day. The RAPA site I work at is great for wildlife. It’s got a pond and loads of wild areas. There’s loads of young trees as well, but were going to be planting some more with the project.

Caddis fly larvaWhat is the most interesting / unusual / beautiful plant or animal you’ve ever seen?

The cased Caddis Fly larva was great with the lads the other day. I'd never seen one of those before and it’s amazing to see because kids act in the same way… like things making a den to hide in.

Who/what inspired you to work in your community?

I grew up here and I want to give something back, give the kids an opportunity to see different things and stay out of trouble. 

What advice would you give to people who want to encourage their communities to get involved in science and nature?

It’s great to be outside, and looking at nature in a different way. Just taking time it’s amazing what you find if you just look a little bit closer. Stuff that’s going on around you all the time and you don’t know anything about it until you start looking.

Any funny stories from working with a group or any moments that made you proud?

Seeing kids handling worms with the soil survey.

Photo credits: Profile photo courtesy of Compufix.

About OPAL Community Champions

The OPAL Community Champions scheme aims to acknowledge the contribution made by individuals to the OPAL network, to thank people for their efforts, and to act as an inspiration for others.

Over the next few weeks and months we'll be profiling 20 Community Champions, nominated by OPAL's team of Community Scientists from across the UK.