Launched September 2022, Champhibians is the new pond adoption scheme for Scottish schools, where pupils, staff and the wider school community can contribute to a citizen science project that not only records amphibians but also helps to enhance and safeguard the pond. Communication between Champhibian schools will mean knowledge of amphibian numbers locally and nationally can be shared.

Not only is it a great introduction to citizen science, with animals that are easily recognised and have a regular yearly timetable of emergence, mating and metamorphosis, it is also a way for the school community to work towards understanding the pond’s health and contributing to its long-term wellbeing as a viable habitat. It also allows for a sense of pride in ‘your pond’ and being able to compare one year’s results with the next, hopefully seeing amphibian numbers grow.

Schools will have the full support of the SSAAR Education Officer in the surveying and recording of amphibians at a school grounds or local community pond. The project can also help schools without their own ponds to form strong links with community partners who safeguard a local pond in a community green space. The school can form a working relationship to monitor and support the pond and its wildlife, simply through recording the pond’s condition, the animal life there and even the water quality.

The project is further supported by a teachers’ resource pack, with suggestions on how the project links to the biodiversity element of the curriculum for excellence, health and well-being and community engagement. The school receives a door sticker with the Champhibian mascot of Newtrino ‘the Super Newt’ and every pupil receives their own smaller sticker.

Thanks to the pupils of Broadford Primary School for naming Newtrino and to Plockton High School for his superhero back story. The teaching staff of Broadford Primary and Plockton High School were advisers developing the resources and ideas for Newtrino and we thank Stephen Atkins, Tracey Keenan, Irene Mitchell and Andrew McGrath for all their help and advice.

On the morning of the 2nd September, the Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) team (Janet Ullman - Education Officer, Rachael Bohannon-Cooper - Project Officer and John Wilkinson - Training and Science Programmes Manager) gathered in Castlemilk, Glasgow. Our purpose, the introduction of the Champhibians project to one of our first Champhibian schools.

Bristling with pond nets and carrying bags of trays and props for games the team met project partner Stuart Whittaker (Woodland Officer for Cassiltoun Housing Association) at Miller Primary. We were joined by seventeen very excited P4s and the very encouraging and supportive teaching staff. Janet introduce the team and the Champhibians project and began by telling the children they were going to be superheroes – Champhibians! Explaining that they were going to be the future guardians of the amphibians and the pond they were going to visit. Stuart led the way, Miller Primary being very fortunate in already having close links with Castlemilk Park and the woodlands managed by the Cassiltoun Housing Association. Our little entourage snaked into the neighbouring wood and we were soon by a tiny stone bridge leading across a shallow burn, beside it lay a pond that had become choked by silt and weeds. Stuart told the story of how he had found a smooth newt by the pond. He explained how, with a bit of help from the school and local volunteers, the pond could be restored to its former glory. The children emphatically agreed and sagely nodded their heads, taking on the responsibility with gusto. Then Janet stepped forward with nets and trays and let the children begin their life as Champhibians by conducting a quick kick sample survey in the burn.

Soon trays of water were filled with wriggling creatures, all of which delighted teachers and pupils alike. Stuart and the SSAAR team ran between trays quickly identifying invertebrates and explaining how the diversity of life reflected the good water quality and the potential variety of possible prey for hungry amphibians.

After over an hour of activity we said goodbye to Miller Primary and Stuart. We then went to Malls Mire community green space in Toryglen. Here, by the enormous SUDs pond we met our next Champhibian School, St. Brigid’s Primary and 23 very enthusiastic P5/6s and again very supportive teaching staff. The school has a long-term partnership with the conservation group Urban Roots, based at the Toryglen Community Hub, who are now also the school’s Champhibian partners. Again, Janet introduced the class to their new role as superheroes, which was met with some excitement. After a few games to focus the class on the perils and pitfalls of being a tadpole, we went carefully down slope to the edge of the SUDS pond. The air was full of dragonflies and wolf spiders were enjoying the dry banks. The air was soon filled with excited yells and screams as children pond dipped, finding nymphs of all kinds and the competition for small leeches and flatworms was unbounded.

The clock was approaching home time before the children could be persuaded they needed to leave. They left with their Newtrino stickers and their teacher clutching the new Champhibian resource pack.

The Champhibian project is now available for schools across Scotland, if you and your school would like to take part please contact Janet at [email protected] and visit the Champhibians page for more details.

We would like to thank Stuart Whittaker, Mrs Embleton, Mr Harris, Mr Cannon, Ms Moretti and Gemma Jennings for all their support before and during the launch.

If you would like to find out how to get involved with amphibian and reptile conservation in Scotland please visit the Saving Scotland's Amphibians and Reptiles project page. If you would like to support our work in Scotland please visit to make a donation or create a fundraising page.

We are very grateful to our funders, The Helvellyn Foundation, The R S MacDonald Charitable Trust, The Bannister Charitable Trust and Thistledown Trust, who have made this project possible.