Today's children have inherited an environmental and biodiversity crisis. Yet nature study in schools is declining. Headlines tell of young people's lack of nature knowledge, how they can't name trees or plants, but in my experience children have an inherent natural love and curiosity for the natural world. For their future it is vital that environmental learning is at the core of the curriculum and children leave school with a good understanding of and connection with nature. Your support will enable Wildlife Wonder to deliver 50+ Wonder days in schools and develop with teachers a nature-rich pilot primary curriculum that can become a foundation for change.
Ten years ago a head teacher invited me to her school to lead a creative writing Wonder day based upon my professional study of wild tigers - nervously I agreed! Truly a wonderful day, I've been invited back every year since - but the learning focus has changed from tiger jungles to wild doorsteps! In 2012 I founded the social enterprise Wildlife Wonder and now work with 10,000 children each year in primary, secondary and special schools, plus leading STEM and Wildlife Wonder teacher training workshops. Through observation, discovery and photography, children explore their school grounds (or nearby green space) to learn about the natural world. Working with teachers, each day is tailored to fit with the curriculum theme - autumnal leaf literacy, learning about habitats or a thoughtful journey along Darwin's path. The aim of all Wildlife Wonder sessions is to engage children with the wild on their doorstep and grow their interest and understanding of nature.
- “Thank you so much! The children have not stopped talking about their day, the feedback is phenomenal! We would love to send out a recommendation for you to all the schools in the area.” Head teacher
However, schools have shrinking budgets and a crowded curriculum, so nature study in schools is squashed and inconsistent. Every child, whatever their background, should have regular access to nature and the opportunity to develop an understanding and enjoyment of it. If children don't know the name of a flower, its because they haven't been taught it by parents, teachers or the community. But nature education should be much more than just learning to identify species. Weaved through science, art, DT, literacy, drama or geography, the natural world needs to be an integral part of the school curriculum - for our physical and mental well-being and for the health of nature and the environment.
- "No one will protect what they don't care about; And no one will care about what they haven't experienced" Sir David Attenborough
Rather than a stand-alone Wonder day, what if schools could enjoy a series of seasonal or monthly sessions where children explore nature through the year - their experiences and understanding of nature growing term by term?
- “I don’t know much about nature and what things are, but I know I like it” Pupil
Teachers are under huge time and work pressure and may not have the skills needed to lead nature sessions. So having built special relationships with a diverse group of schools, I’m working with their teachers to develop a year-long nature strand that works within the curriculum, one that doesn't add an unrealistic burden long-term. And importantly, talking to the schools that are leading the way with inspirational natural learning. Observing seasonal change along Darwin's path, discovering natural wonder, identifying species, leaf literacy, describing the colours of the wild, exploring environmental issues, learning about local wildlife, creating wildlife habitats, performing or painting the patterns of nature. The potential for study is huge - enjoyable, engaging, enriching and essential.
- “All staff commented on how excellent the day was and what a great rapport you had with the pupils. The experience was very enriching for our pupils” KS3 Head
Schools don’t have the budgets to fund significant enrichment, so planning any long-term study is difficult. This crowd-funding campaign will enable Wildlife Wonder to develop, deliver and importantly showcase afterwards, a unique year-long nature study tailored to the needs, curriculum and outdoor environment of each school - whether rural, town or city.
With your support Wildlife Wonder can lead a unique and diverse programme of 52 Wonder days through 2020 - involving a broad range of primary schools and 1000’s of children. 39 days will funded by you and 13 directly by schools (schools funding a small part, ensures they are fully committed to the project). For each day booked by the school this funding allows Wildlife Wonder to run 3-4 days with the school (depending on location). And to add impact, incorporated within the project will be after-school family sessions, to engage adults with the study and extend the nature learning reach. Plus we will hold end of year celebration events in the schools. This project is ready to launch and can begin with schools in late February.
You will be able to follow our progress online, with monthly updates of the children's studies. At the end of the project all the experiences, plans and outcomes from this pilot nature-rich curriculum will be available for other schools to replicate, use as a template or adapt.
Learning about nature and our environment has never been more important – we need nature in schools, as a core part of the curriculum. With your help this project wlll help to address this need. All supporters (unless you wish to remain anonymous) will be thanked online and at any exhibitions of children’s work. I really appreciate any support you can give. Thank you, Iain
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