Froglife’s Transforming Lives Trainees reflect on their experiences shadowing Groundworks and their ‘Wellies in the Woods’ project.
Written by Vaughan Foulkes-Arnold and Elizabeth Disdel: Transforming Lives Trainees
As part of the Transforming Lives Traineeship, we have had the opportunity to shadow other organisations to see what the sector has in terms of career options. We were kindly invited by Groundworks to see one of their flagship programmes that tried to connect some of the most deprived areas in Peterborough to a natural setting.
We arrived at Central Park in Peterborough to observe week one of ‘Wellies in the Woods’ a group session for adults with very young children that aims to promote confidence in parents to engage in outdoor activities with their families. The session was structured in a way to make everyone feel at ease, so the main activity of reading the fantastic story ‘Superworm’ was followed by a little hunt around the trees and shrubbery for cards we had placed with creatures that could be found in the book.
The session’s location had the benefit of the large amount of Squirrels, one of which took a tomato from my hands, to the amusement of the children (and adults). It was impressive to see the improvement in confidence in one session from the attendees.
As part of the day, Hannah, the session leader, provided pots with magnifying glasses to see insects more closely, which makes the experience more exciting, more interactive and personal to the participants. We have been asked to return in 8 weeks to see the final session and it will be interesting to see the changes in confidence and engagement.
When working in some parts of conservation, I think that you can get a little bit stuck in a ‘mechanics’ mindset. By this, I mean that you become very obsessed with the nitty gritty of certain parts of your reserve – should I remove all of those reeds? Where is the best place to build that hibernacula? When was the last time we desilted the pond? This is all incredibly important and vital work, and without it, our Nature Reserves would not flourish as they do. However, sometimes it is nice to have the opportunity to take a step back, and look at the whole picture, rather than the individual brush strokes.
For me, taking a step back looked like shadowing Groundworks during their ‘Wellies in the Woods’ project, spending time with the young people taking their first stumbles and tentative steps into outdoor spaces; watching toddlers scoop up handfuls of leaves and being nose to nose with a crawling woodlouse. It is spending time with people outdoors like this that I am reminded that conservation is more than the everyday work that goes into ensuring that natural spaces are kept habitable for the wildlife they support. A huge part of conservation is grassroots – it starts with the small humans! The more we show them how lovely wild spaces are, ensure they feel safe and secure in them, and show them how to take care of nature, the more young people will grow up with an innate investment in the world around them; they will WANT to look after their local greenspaces!
Spending time with Hannah, an outdoor learning leader from Groundwork, was an excellent opportunity to see young people connecting with nature and we look forward to coming back again to see their progress. Thank you to Hannah and Groundwork hosting us!