Tuesday, 2 September 2008

back to school, back to nature

extract from a piece I have recently had published here...

It’s that time again when children go back to school, dressed in new uniform and stiff new shoes. But do you know much about the National Curriculum? Do you know what your children or grandchildren are learning at school? And would you be shocked if we were to tell you that environmental education is no longer a compulsory part of the national curriculum? Emma Bradshaw of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust takes a closer look at the education system and what you can do to make sure your children have access to nature’s playground…

I was shocked recently when I received an email asking me to sign a petition to put environmental education back on the curriculum, as despite having a child at school I hadn’t realised it wasn’t a compulsory element and hasn’t been for ten years now. Teaching about the environment comes under the other subject headings of geography, science and personal, social and health education and according to curriculum guidelines can even be taught via a CD ROM. How it is delivered is entirely up to the teacher and what resources they have available, some children may have access to wildlife gardens and vegetable plots, but others with very limited school grounds may have no grass, gardens or fields at all!

I then read an article from the USA about how parental influence is threatening childhood, through not allowing children to roam as far as we did when growing up through our own fears and misconceptions, as it is statistically safer for children to play outside now than it was 20 years ago. Have the days of wandering the countryside like the characters in Swallows and Amazons or the Famous Five really gone? Climbing trees, making go-carts, coming home at dark in time for tea, with no access to mobile phones and chat rooms!

We are already seeing the effects of this change in society as childhood obesity increases, children have TVs and computers in their rooms rendering them immobile and school playing fields are built on with new houses.

So why is environmental education so important?

Experiencing the natural environment promotes a sense of awe and wonder in most young children, and reduces any innate fearfulness of the unknown and strange. “Learning in the outdoors is often felt by the children to be more fun than classroom learning. Repeated enjoyable learning experiences in the outdoors develops their respect for all living things and an awareness of the interconnectedness of the natural world with people. From this comes an understanding of the effects on the environment of humankind’s actions and thus a sense of responsibility for their own actions are engendered.” Margaret Westmore, Primary Schools Officer at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Research also consistently indicates that frequent contact with and positive experiences in the natural environment also contribute to both physical and emotional well-being.

What can you do as parents? Ideas for Activities to do at home;
• Go for a picnic – you could have a theme or go to a special place
• Just stand in the wind/rain and savour the experience
• Run through/roll in and throw autumn leaves
• Build dens
• Make mud-pies
• Splash in puddles
• Play games such as hide-and-seek
• Grow stuff – outside and indoors
• Collect things – and treasure them
• Look for things under themes: shapes, textures, colours
• Collect groups of things e.g. leaves, feathers, stones
• Look for mini-beasts wherever you are (garden, park street, indoors)
• Make collages
• Use natural materials to draw pictures
• Offer to help your children’s teacher run a wildlife club or Wildlife Watch group – the junior section of The Wildlife Trusts.

For further information…


  1. I think it's so important to childrens.

    most schools here in my city dosen't have a specific course for environmental education, they have biology, but the most of teachers dosen't stay autside with their class.

    I'm studing biology at the University, I can also teach too, my plans if I choise to teach is cative the students with some interesting things of the nature has, but it is so dificult 'cause some students dosen't matter with school more specific in public schools, and I'm afraid... I think teaching is so dificult..


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