Book Review by Graham Watson, John Muir Award Cumbria Manager

Learning with Nature.

20140617=learning-with-nature=front-cover=low-res-1000x1000Beautifully presented as a ‘how-to’ guide to inspire children, Learning with Nature is aimed at families, schools, youth groups and anyone working with children. The blurb tells me the activities are suitable for ages 3 to 16 and will help develop practical skills, awareness and respect for the natural world. An initial flick through reveals great images and a layout of activities that is easy to follow.

The introduction gives context in the form of an intriguing diagram showing an ‘extinction of experience’ revealed by the decline in roaming radius from home of 8 year olds from the 1920s (6 miles) to 2007 (700 yards), followed by the benefits of increased time in nature. There’s also advice on how to make the most of the book through the art of questioning to nurture curiosity, and a section on Looking after Nature which sets out the interplay between nature and people to allow both to flourish. I was thinking hard before I got to the activities!

leafThe activities are set out in 4 themes: games, naturalist, seasonal and survival skills. There’s a large range and each activity has clear advice on resources needed (often none, which I like), number of people, age, duration and how to do it. A note on variations and links to similar or complimentary activities is helpful. A side box titled Invisible Learning gives an idea of what we might expect when using the activity, advice I found either reinforced my own ideas or alerted me to new possibilities.

If the book lacks anything it’s the benefits of using the outdoors from a formal education perspective. However I think those working in this context will easily recognise ways of using these activities in their work.

10246355_10152042900188803_739863649045105486_nThis book is much more than a collection of great activities. It has an aim we can all buy into to forge “a heartfelt relationship [with nature] that will renew and inform our culture, creating love and respect for the natural world.” This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and youth leaders alike looking to inspire young people with nature. Get a copy and head outdoors!

Learning with Nature is now available at the special offer price of £14.99 (+ postage) via the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.


Graham Watson is the John Muir Award Cumbria Manager with the Lake District National Park. “Connect, enjoy and care for wild places.”

Graham can be contacted at cumbria@johnmuiraward.org 

The John Muir Award encourages people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places. It’s the main educational initiative of the John Muir Trust the leading wild land conservation charity in the UK, which works to protect wild land and wild places.

Find out the difference the John Muir Award makes and why they need your support.