New ‘Nature Friendly Schools’ will help to ‘green’ hundreds of school grounds and bring thousands of children closer to nature
Nature Friendly Schools - a £6.4m funded project to improve children’s wellbeing, learning and care for the environment, was announced at the launch of the Government's Year of Green Action.
The Wildlife Trusts is leading a new and ground-breaking programme – ‘Nature Friendly Schools’ - to bring thousands of children closer to nature. Teachers will receive training to link outdoor learning to the National Curriculum, students will visit local nature reserves or parks, and have the opportunity to experience wildlife on their doorstep through new nature areas in school grounds.
Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted to launch the Year of Green Action – an energy injection for the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. As the future stewards of our planet, children and young people have a vital role to play in this. The £10million boost will help ensure there are no barriers for young people to access the benefits of the natural world and importantly enable them to play their part in environmental protection”.
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added: “We’re thrilled to be heading a consortium to bring many thousands of children closer to nature in schools. Our children deserve better than to be cooped up all day. We know that contact with nature lowers anxiety and is good for learning and social skills, so it’s really exciting to be working closely with schools to build teachers’ confidence in getting their pupils outdoors.
"Children will have the opportunity to experience wildlife on their doorstep and further afield through hands on activities in their school grounds and local green places, and the chance to experience residential field trips. Teachers and children will be able to use our natural world as a resource to help with the National Curriculum and experience all the joy and better health that being outdoors can bring.”
Led by The Wildlife Trusts, the Department for Education funded four-year project partnership involves YoungMinds which leads the fight for children and young people’s mental health; Groundwork which transforms young people’s lives in the most disadvantaged communities; Sensory Trust, experts in ensuring children with special needs enjoy access to nature; and the Field Studies Council, which inspires environmental education through first-hand experiences on residential courses.
Nature Friendly Schools will fuel creativity and a sense of adventure, allowing children to experience the joy that nature can bring. The project will improve school grounds so that they’re more natural, with wildflower patches, sensory gardens and trails, container ponds and green spaces, so students can see nature close-up; from beautiful damselflies to minibeast hunts, even meeting a frog!
The programme will work in partnership with over 300 schools in England with the highest proportions of disadvantaged pupils (primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision), starting this autumn.
Supported by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Natural England; the programme aims to improve children’s wellbeing and mental health, their care and concern for the environment, and engagement with lessons. Research shows that being outdoors improves happiness, concentration and mental and physical health.
Commenting on the funding, Lord Blencathra, Natural England’s Deputy Chair, said: “Connecting children with nature is one of the most important things we can do for them. It can boost their health, wellbeing and learning and give them a life-long love of the natural world that leads them to cherish and protect it forever. I hope these projects will ensure that every child has the means of discovering the wonders of our wildlife.”