A number of conservation organisations have been working on issues around engaging young people with the natural world for many years, with the National Trust creating a study and holding a conference on the subject in 2012. The fear is that young people are not getting enough time outside, and therefore not enjoying the personal benefits activities can bring, as well as not engaging with the natural world and therefore developing a desire to protect it.
Click here to read The National Trust’s Natural Childhood Report.
Find out more information about The National Trust’s work.
Project Wild Thing is a brilliant new project developing ideas to help young people engage with nature.
Part of the concern is that we have become too risk averse in terms of what we allow and enable young people to do, and Tim Gill has some really interesting thoughts on this area here at Rethinking Childhood.
Froglife’s My Wild Life project collected and compared memories from different generations about experiences with nature, and you can find our project reports here.
Our key finding was that young people can really enjoy time outdoors, meting wildlife (especially amphibians and reptiles) and exploring different habitats. These don’t need to be grand outings, and unaccompanied time exploring with friends is important. However, also crucial to many people’s early experiences of wildlife was the presence of a nature mentor – a friendly adult to help us discover wonders, learn how to handle things carefully and spot hidden treasures. This could be a family member, a teacher or youth leader. With many people also sharing darker stories about harming wildlife (both deliberately and accidently), a helpful grown up also can instil respect for nature and a conservation ethic.
All this work highlights the need to help families, young people, adults and youth leaders gain access and understanding to natural places and wild encounters, something at the heart of Froglife’s work.