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Help improve access to outdoor learning

by Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Highbridge, England, United Kingdom

Help improve access to outdoor learning

£285

£5,228 target 3 days left
5% 8 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 7th December 2021 at 12:00pm

To improve accessibility and provide opportunities for more children to learn about the natural world in a safe outdoor environment

by Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Highbridge, England, United Kingdom

Who are Secret World Wildlife Rescue, and how can you help us? 

Secret World Wildlife Rescue (SWWR) exists to relieve the suffering of British wildlife and to encourage respect and tolerance for wildlife. We do this by providing a rescue, rehabilitation and release service for injured, sick and orphaned wildlife, inspiring learning and sharing information about British wildlife and delivering professional training. 

We offer an extensive education programme and create resources for all levels, from schoolchildren to vets. Our aim is to inspire in people a love of wildlife and encourage them to protect it. In 2019 (pre-Covid) we engaged with 8,633 people through our learning sessions and open days: 4,672 children and 3,961 adults.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Dioum

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Wild species and their habitats are under enormous strain. The National Biodiversity Network’s State of Nature report, published in 2019 and analysing data on wild populations since 1970, painted a very grim picture for UK wildlife. They found that more species have seen their populations decrease rather than increase (41% vs. 26%), but many the increased populations are due to climate change, for example migratory birds changing their behaviours. 

The report also identified that 15% of species studies are threatened with extinction in Great Britain. The main threats identified are mostly related to human activity. These include climate change, urbanisation, pollution, and agricultural management. Around 40% of all wildlife admissions to our centre are due to human factors, including road accidents, nests being disturbed, predation by pets, and sadly on some occasions, cruelty and persecution.

Our direct work with animals is more concerned with welfare than conservation. This is why our learning programme is so important. We use case studies of injured animals to teach people about the human impact on wildlife and what they can do to reduce their own impact. However, our learning programme is not limited to mammals and birds. We acknowledge that all types of wildlife are important and that without insects, worms, and spiders many of the species we treat simply could not survival in the wild. Therefore, our educational work covers everything from beetles to badgers and includes the plant species that wildlife needs to survive. By showing how it is all connected we can change behaviours and attitudes, which we believe is the most effective way to help the future of our precious wildlife. 

Outdoor learning – a key part of our work with children and young people – also offers physical and mental health benefits. A study by the Nature Connectedness Research Group has shown that people who are more connected to nature feel better and ‘function well’ and have higher levels of self-reported personal growth. Outdoor learning can deliver these benefits at the same time as educating children, making it a very attractive offering for educators. Improving health and education is particularly important in our surrounding area, which ranks well below the national average for health and education on the Co-op Community Wellbeing Index.

Why we're asking for help with this

As we prepare to welcome school and community groups back to our site again, we have two main aims. We want to offer more interactive outdoor activities and improve access for wheelchair users. 

We are looking to buy a range of ecology equipment and books that will be used in the different sessions we run. These are tools for both attracting and identifying wildlife in a humane way. We host school groups of all ages, as well as community groups including Brownies and Cubs. One client is Elmwood School, a secondary school for young people between 11-19 years old with Special Educational Needs. They recognised our important work with their students by presenting us with an “Outstanding Contribution to the Federation” award.

We also run sessions for pre-school children, home educators, and our ‘Wild Academy’ for older children during school holidays. Sessions take place in our Lottery-funded education centre and neighbouring green spaces. 

We also hope to purchase an all-terrain wheelchair  to remove some of the barriers currently faced by wheelchair users. We will improve our outdoor learning space, adding interpretation boards and a sensory garden which will provide enrichment for children with learning difficulties.

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How you can help improve access to outdoor learning

We do charge our users for the sessions they attend but we need some help getting things moving again. All our work with children was paused due to the pandemic and we are starting again from an almost stationary position. Income from sessions will go towards ongoing costs once these are established again, but your support will help ensure our costs are covered while we work on rebuilding our contacts and engaging with children again.

These costs will support our work with around 1,200 children through our pre-booked sessions. They will also help approximately 2,500 children who visit our open activity weekends, held over 9 days across the year. If we do not raise our whole target, we will prioritise the purchase of ecology equipment and interpretation boards as these will benefit all our beneficiaries.

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