A guest post by Connor – a Nature Premium youth ambassador.
Tiptoeing out of a pandemic, we all know now just how valuable time in nature is for our physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Although we now have a greater sense of freedom, access to nature and playing outdoors is still limited and not equally accessible. This inaccessibility is especially true for our children and those of disadvantaged and marginalised communities. However, a Nature Premium could see this change.
I was lucky to have somewhat of a nature premium growing up. My mum and grandparents passed on old wildlife and natural history books, I would watch documentaries and go to zoos, aquariums, farms, and green and blue spaces in and outside of London where I explored nature.
These resources and activities embedded a life-long love and fascination for the natural world. I now pursue a career in wildlife conservation with my masters and degree in zoology. But living on a council estate in East London, this was a rarity and is reflected by the fact that the environmental sector is the second least diverse sector after farming and agriculture. There is a clear disconnect between minority ethnicities and nature.
The Nature Premium combined with the Natural History GCSE could see this change completely and provide children in disadvantaged communities with the experiences, knowledge, and inspiration I was lucky to have growing up.
The Nature Premium campaign calls on the UK government for additional funding and support to guarantee regular access to nature for all children across the UK. Backed by over 40 organisations, numerous advocates and the public, there is a clear desire for a Nature Premium.
“A plea for a transformation of our education systems towards one where children from an early age are encouraged to try and understand the infinitely beautiful tapestry of processes and forms that is Nature”
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta in his interim report of the Treasury commissioned report The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review (April 2020).
The Nature Premium will provide the much-needed financial support for early years practitioners (and all schoolteachers) to access training, resources, and any further support needed to facilitate more outdoor play and learning, and engagement with nature. An example of this training could include the Forest Kindergarten Level 3, mentioned by Marina Robb in ABCDoes’ last blog post. From there, children can explore and discover the natural world for themselves in a safe and supportive space, facilitated by confident and educated practitioners.
And this discovery doesn’t stop at the age of five. The Nature Premium will guarantee regular access to nature and outdoor learning up until they leave secondary. The benefits of this access to nature for children will ripple through their lifetime, those that they interact with, and society as a whole – both in the short and long term; from improving children and young people’s mental and physical well-being to developing skills, interests and career pathways in support of the green economy and a sustainable future.
We are living through an age of monumental and potentially catastrophic environmental change. So, it is important, more than ever, that we and our children understand the world we live in. In doing so, we’ll be able to make the necessary changes in society to reverse current environmental trends.
“No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced”
But ‘right now’, our little ones need to catch up on time and freedom lost to the confinement of an ongoing pandemic. Freedom and time to explore the world around them; to learn for themselves, and to be inspired by nature’s infinity and beyond. And offline too, out in the real world.
In the age of technology, we are becoming rapidly detached from nature and our experiences within it. This includes early years. I’ve seen my 2-year-old nephew, eyes glued to the TV, hands latching on to his tablet, and now addicted to all four ice age films – he’s moved on from Baby Shark now! Even so, he’ll do anything to get outdoors.
But even prior to the pandemic there had been a gradual shift in how much time children and young people were spending outdoors. A recent study found that children in England are playing outside independently many years later than their parents did1. There are many reasons for this, but technology is likely a key player.
The Nature Premium can combat this dependence on screens that the youth possess, and will encourage healthier alternative habits to time spent on electronic devices whilst improving children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
As an early years practitioner or parent, I’m sure you will see the benefits of your children spending time outdoors and feel them too. You can learn more about the Nature Premium campaign and how you can support and follow the campaign here.