Connecting Children to Nature
The project is funded by donations from carrier bag sales in Aldi's UK stores, set to total more than £2m
Research by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) found less than 20 per cent of children had a "reasonable" level of connection to the natural world.
"It's such a huge problem we had to do something on a massive scale," says RSPB education manager Suzanne Welch.
"Evidence shows a connection to nature is not just vital for the future of conservation but for young people's health and wellbeing."
The RSPB wanted to reach children outside its usual base of nature reserves. Its Connecting Children to Nature programme, which launched in June 2015, has several strands: schools outreach across 17 cities; a two-year project delivering activities to families in local parks and green spaces; free visits for schools to four nature reserves; outreach and resources for early years settings and Wild Challenge, providing interactive digital resources for schools and families across the UK. Children can earn bronze, silver or gold awards for completing free activities.
The RSPB developed separate sessions for schools and early years settings, delivered by staff and volunteers. "We developed activities so teachers could see a benefit to children's learning as well as their emotional connection to the natural environment," says Welch.
For example, the Giving Nature a Home initiative helps children explore school grounds to identify natural habitats and spot opportunities for creating more. Meanwhile Wild Words encourages under-sixes to travel around an outdoor space thinking about the journey of an animal and is designed to be a stimulus for literacy work.
The programme will run until 2019.
The programme aims to engage 500,000 children and has so far reached almost 350,000. An evaluation carried out by agency Family, Kids & Youth found 98 per cent of teachers rated the outreach sessions as excellent or good. More than three-quarters - 77 per cent - of pupils said they had learned something about nature, and 76 per cent said they planned to spend more time outside when they were at home. Most teachers - 83 per cent - said taking part in lessons outside boosted children's confidence.
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