Four ways in which the RSPB is connecting children with nature
by Caroline Offord from the RSPB
Do you remember the feel of sand in your toes, the darkness of a cave as you looked for bears or the thrill of climbing your first tree?
To many people it would seem obvious that having access to play, learning outdoors and exploring the world around you is an essential part of childhood.
In more recent decades though, the daily interaction children have with nature has been declining. Children today – and many adults too – have less contact with the natural environment than any previous generation. This is despite growing evidence showing the diverse and positive impacts of contact with nature on a child’s education, health, emotional wellbeing and social skills – as well as the benefits to the environment.
A recent survey of over 1,000 school children and teachers revealed that 85% of school children want to spend more time outside in nature, and four out of five teachers want to spend more time teaching outside.
Recognising the benefits of nature on children’s learning, health and wellbeing, the RSPB believes that every child should be entitled to regular contact with the natural environment. We’re passionate about getting young people outside and experiencing nature first-hand. From your school grounds to special places further afield, we can provide something that meets your needs.
Let the RSPB show you how easy it is to inspire and support your outdoor teaching with relevant activities, ideas and resources that actively engage your class or group:
1. Free schools outreach
In response to the well-documented decline in the time children spend outdoors and in nature, we’ve teamed up with discount supermarket Aldi to launch the Connecting Children with Nature partnership. Over the past three years, nearly 200 staff and volunteers have been visiting primary schools in 17 cities to deliver free outdoor nature sessions to help pupils discover the wildlife on their doorstep.
We developed the project to inspire the next generation to explore, discover, enjoy and look after the natural world. There are a selection of sessions available for Primary and Early Years including:
• Wild Words
Exploring your school grounds through the eyes of an animal, collecting natural things and generating ‘wild words’ that can be used as a stimulus for literacy work.
• Habitat Explorer
What marvellous minibeasts do you know about and where would you look for them? Find minibeasts in your grounds by identifying habitats that already exist and spotting opportunities for creating more.
• Giving Nature a Home
Designed to help your pupils map and score your school grounds for nature - identifying habitats that already exist and spotting opportunities for creating more.
By 2019, we hope half a million children will have benefitted from the partnership.
To find out more, including how to book a session for you school, go to: www.rspb.org.uk/aldi
2. Start your own wildlife adventure
The new Wild Challenge scheme encourages schools to embark on their own wild adventure.
Wild Challenge is a free award scheme suitable for all ages and abilities. It encourages children to connect with, and learn about, nature through a series of fun and engaging activities.
Designed for primary aged school pupils in mainstream education, it can easily be adapted for Home Educators, pupils with Special Educational Needs and Early Years.
There are 30 Wild Challenge activities to choose from including bug hunting, building homes for mammals, feeding birds and wild writing. There is something to do at all times of the year, no matter what the weather. Each activity comes with helpful ideas and resources to help schools on their wild adventure. Schools can log their achievements on to the RSPB Wild Challenge website and collect bronze, silver and gold awards for their pupils.
Since its launch, more than 6,000 actions have been taken by schools to help wildlife.
To get your class/school involved go to: www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge
3. Schools on reserves
Every year, thousands of children engage with nature with the RSPB, including the 40,000 school children we welcome to one of our outdoor learning centres across the UK.
The RSPB has 18 nature reserves around the UK where we can provide your class with that special out of classroom learning experience they will remember.
Our stunning nature reserves provide your class with a unique and memorable day. You can choose from a selection of half or full-day programmes that will get your group exploring the natural world with exciting hands-on activities linked to the curriculum across all key stages.
Led by our professional learning staff, we provide activities suitable for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 at all our centres with some able to offer secondary programmes as well. They are carefully crafted so that you and your class get the most out of their outdoors and learn new skills. Sessions include pond dipping, discovering minibeasts and brilliant birds.
The special habitats on RSPB nature reserves provide an ideal environment for a rich variety of species to thrive, meaning we can offer pupils the chance to get up close to many insects, birds and animals they may not have had the opportunity to see before.
It's really easy to organise and affordable too.
To find out more or book your visit go to: www.rspb.org.uk/qaschools
4. Big Schools’ Birdwatch
Every year, schools from every corner of the UK take part in the biggest wildlife survey in schools – the Big Schools’ Birdwatch.
The birdwatch is a fun and educational activity and is free to every school in the UK. It’s flexible enough to fit into a lesson or during lunchtime and links well to the curriculum or project work.
It takes place during the first half of spring term (2 January – 22 February 2019) and your school/class will spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their outdoor space, then send their results to the RSPB.
60,000 school children and teachers took part in the birdwatch in 2018 counting more than 150,000 birds. Now in its 17th year, the survey helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, providing an insight into which species are doing well or not so well and brings children closer to nature.