By Paul Martin, Education Team Leader at Devon Wildlife Trust
Devon is a largely rural county, enjoying a wide range of habitats, both terrestrial and marine. There are many opportunities to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that connection with nature offers, even within the more urban settings such as Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, a wealth of green and blue spaces are on hand for the population to enjoy.
Despite the opportunities, it is clear that the benefits are not being exploited to their full potential which is why Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) was delighted to be offered the opportunity to participate in the Nature Friendly Schools (NFS) project to demonstrate how to utilise local green spaces for the benefit of mental health and wellbeing in young people.
DWT has increasingly been working with schools in urban areas over recent years to develop outdoor learning spaces, curriculum and teacher training so that schools can use the space around them for the benefits of wildlife and students. Nature Friendly Schools offers the opportunity to focus on specific schools in targeted areas, largely in the urban settings where space for outdoor learning is often limited creating a range of challenges for staff seeking to make the most of what they have.
Despite Plymouth being a large city, 50 percent of the area is covered by green space, (not to mention the blue) much of which is accessible to the public. A similar picture is reflected in Torbay, Exeter and Barnstaple, all areas included in the project as having pockets of deprivation.
DWT will be working with a small number of schools during the life of the project, however, we are excited about connecting them with nature on their doorstep, including one school within three miles of an accessible DWT nature reserve and another, a mile from the sea and an accessible beach.