National Trust got in touch because they are driving a new campaign about connecting young people to nature.  This is a short extract from an article I wrote for them:

The question “what motivates people to care about the nature world” has been a theme to my life and my work.

I believe the most effective solution to motivating people to care about nature is to give as many people as much opportunity as possible to experience the natural world directly. In David Attenborough’s words, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.   Where are most of the young people? In schools! The fastest way to affect change would be to address the curriculum, and the training of teachers.

Before we do anything, we need to unpack what we really mean by connecting Britain’s children to the Natural World.  In my view, connecting has a strong experiential feel to it.  It is not generally what educationalists talk about when they discuss ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ in the curriculum.  I am fortunate to have a Masters in Environmental Education, where we spent several years unpicking what Education for Sustainable Development means, as well as several other titles. They are similar but do lead to different outcomes.  Whatever we do, we need to consider carefully what outcomes we are hoping to reach and then decide the method!  Having been a teacher, researcher and environmentalist for 20 + years, I know that what we have been delivering in schools at primary and secondary level has not led to children feeling connected to the natural world.

Connection is emotive, it’s a feeling that builds relationship. It doesn’t mean that we know the name of a plant or animal, but it offers a real life meeting with another living being.  It requires us to use of all of our senses – our sense of smell, touch, hearing, taste, vision, direction, all the senses that tell us we are alive, it’s experiential and can’t be learnt in books.

Connecting to nature, creates curiosity and interest, that makes you feel alive.  Knowledge has more of a quality of filing it, not feeling it.

Marina Robb (Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC)