Natural Childhood report – five years on

Five years on from the Natural Childhood report more families than ever are enjoying nature at National Trust places.

Last year almost 4.5 million family members visited the conservation charity’s places – with visits growing steadily over the last five years.

BioBlitz5, Copyright National Trust, credit Steven Haywood

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Think bigger for nature

A three month survey of puffins has started on the National Trust's Farne Islands.  The Trust works with partner organisation to understand what is happening to puffin numbers

A three month survey of puffins has started on the National Trust’s Farne Islands. The Trust works with partner organisation to understand what is happening to puffin numbers

The ‘State of Nature’ report published today is important. It signals a pivotal moment in our relationship with wildlife in the UK.  It clearly outlines the tremendous challenges that the nature conservation movement faces as species and habitats have declined in recent decades, and as we look to a future where our demands on the land are increasing. Yet we mustn’t see this as a lost cause. It shows that we need to focus on two things – making more room for nature, and making more time for nature.

Everyone involved in nature has started to think big about how we can create the space for nature. The Natural Environmental White Paper in England and the twelve Nature Improvement Areas have been important in moving us in the right direction.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg; we need more of these areas in England and need to be bolder in how we connect places that are important for nature across the rest of the UK.

Reconnecting kids with nature is really important for the future of wildlife in the UK

Reconnecting kids with nature is really important for the future of wildlife in the UK

We also need to make more time for nature. Last year the National Trust published its ‘Natural Childhood’ report which documented the decline in the relationship that kids have with the natural world.  This is something which has happened in just one generation.  This new report underlines the urgency and need for action to reconnect children with wildlife for their own wellbeing but also for creating a generation that gets the value and importance of the natural world.

If this was an end of year report at school then the conservation sector would need to do better in terms of how nature is faring across the UK.

But there is hope.  When conservation organisations work together positive change can happen.  We work closely with a wide range of conservation partners from Butterfly Conservation to Buglife and the BTO to RSPB helping to create the right conditions for wildlife to flourish in the places we care for. We are also working closely with a wide range of partners in establishing a “Wild Network” to create more opportunities for children to connect with nature. Yet in both cases the answer has to be bigger than the nature conservation movement alone – nature needs everyone’s support right now.

David Bullock is Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust.

India: Culture and education in rural areas

The Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD) is focussed on restoration and development of heritage in rural areas. Rural areas are the back bone of Indian culture, which in turn, is recognised as one of the most vibrant cultures in the world.

A good proportion of India’s population lives in the rural areas; which means that the agriculture remains the prominent employer and remains the main source of livelihood and economic activity.

Admittedly, technology is rapidly changing our life styles, and one has to factor in the impact of this change on rural India as well.

Although, the windfalls of applying appropriate technology in the rural areas, especially in agriculture and allied fields, are heartening, total dependence on modernisation is not desirable and has to be avoided. This can be achieved right from the formative years of children, when they have just begun acquiring knowledge.

Culture, Education and Development

It is commonly believed, in development circles, that social and cultural development in rural India has been slow. But on the other side, it has the positive view, which non submission to modernisation has actually preserved our heritage, culture, identity and held us together in rural India.

The trust “ITRHD” is pursuing a culture-sensitive approach to development, and in the process felt the need to better understand cultural diversity and how it affects/ marks on the process of development. Many festivals, fairs, melas denoting the rich cultural heritage of the area fall in cyclic and sequential manner and boost the business of the area. The cyclic and cascading effect of the above process is the reason behind the development and prosperity of many a culture rich civilisation.

2013-04-15

Artwork in Chacha Nehru Primary School

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said, “ The aim of education is not the acquisition of information, although important, or acquisition of technical skills, though essential in modern society, but the development of that bent of mind, that attitude of reason, that spirit of democracy which will make us responsible citizens.”

Indeed, a sensitive and comprehensive education system would help to shape the younger generation into ethically correct and socially conscious youth /adults.

Culture and education cannot be separated but are complementary to each other and interface at various junctions. Both are interwoven in various ways. While culture impacts the quality and purpose of education, whereas education brings a sense of pride in our culture which is manifested in all stages of individual growth.

Primary education is where it all starts and the child begins to respect the importance of a value based life as she/he sees things and events happening, and the behaviour of others, around. The trust has adopted a unique model in imparting elementary/primary education so the youth is focussed on preservation of culture and heritage.

ITRHD has set up a primary school “Chacha Nehru Primary School” in village Hariharpur, a village famous for its classical music tradition which is 400 years old. Harihar pur is a village in District Azamgarh, up in North East India. The school which started in Feb 2013 has 64 registered and enrolled children in the age group of 4-6 years. Priority has been given to poor and marginalised girls.

The school is run by female teachers belonging to the same village, who have been formally trained as primary school teachers. The majority of them are daughters-in-law, so the resource remains in the village even after marriage!

The school offers mid day meal which is a very balanced, freshly cooked meal, where most of the provisions are donated by the villagers.

The happy atmosphere and nutritious food are the biggest attractions for the children and they are too keen to attend the school. The children are often present on the school premises much before the school start time!!

The school building (currently on hired premises) is being constructed, again on land donated by villagers, partly funded by British Council and mainly through corporate CSR funds and donations.

The school is a unique example of community, NGO and international agency participation in development through all its stages of coming up- designing, planning, construction, conceptualisation and implementation.

New report sheds light on the importance of outdoor play.

New research carried out by the Forestry Commission Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University reveals the importance of outdoor play in line with the National Trust’s own Natural Childhood Inquiry. Education experts spent a year studying a group of 13 children from Meadowlane Primary School in Cardiff as part of a Forest School programme to assess how our woodlands can help their development.

“…Allowing children the freedom to explore a natural environment offers a wealth of opportunity to develop creative self-directed play.”

‘Forest’ Schools in Wales

The report outlines a reflective journey on a year long Forest School programme with a group of year four primary children in South East Wales. The Forest School approach has been popular within the Foundation Phase in Wales, however, there seems to have been less focus upon Forest School with Key Stage Two children, this belief was a catalyst for the project.

“…the children seemed to naturally seek to extend their individual boundaries and development.”

The conclusions from this report suggest that allowing children the freedom to explore a natural environment offers a wealth of opportunity to develop creative self-directed play. The report suggests that “all the children tended to take on challenges when they were ready for them.  When left to their own devices, the children seemed to naturally seek to extend their individual boundaries and development” (2012, p35).

“…children are often more involved, imaginative and excited in their learning experiences when they are making their own choices.”

The Forest School leaders aimed to strike a balance between establishing a certain amount of structure during this year-long Forest School programme, which made certain children feel more secure, and allowing sufficient time and encouragement for self-directed learning and play. The report suggests that this time of exploration was invaluable to the children’s experiences.  Observations by the Forest School leaders indicate that the children are often more involved, imaginative and excited in their learning experiences when they are making their own choices. Had the programme been more structured around adult-led activities, these valuable learning opportunities may not have occurred.

The report goes on to question the emphasis placed on self-esteem within a Forest School programme, especially over a short six or ten week programme. It suggests that measuring how self-efficacious children are at specific tasks would be a more accurate and manageable measure for Forest School leaders. It does not dispute the possible gains for self-esteem within a Forest School programme; however, “what it aims to do is open the debate and question the ways in which we measure success” (2012, p. 40).

“For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.”
Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

 

As part of the National Trust’s response to the lack of connection between kids and nature we launched our 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾ campaign in May, with many more initiatives to follow. The issues of ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ are becoming increasingly understood thanks to research by the National Trust and other organisations.

Getting kids into nature starts at home, inquiry finds

Parents need more support to make the outdoors a part of everyday family life if we’re to avoid rearing a generation completely cut off from the natural world, an inquiry by the National Trust has found.

The Natural Childhood Inquiry – which sought submissions from experts and the public on the barriers and the solutions for children’s connection with nature – found that children’s love of nature is best started in the home. The Inquiry follows on from a report for the National Trust by award winning nature author and wildlife TV producer Stephen Moss, published in March, which documented children’s declining connection with the outdoors and nature.

Inquiry respondents said parents need more accessible child and family-friendly green and natural spaces and that opportunities for children to access and enjoy nature need to be promoted in a more joined-up fashion, and in ways that appeal more to families and children.

Much more could be made of the smaller everyday opportunities for children to play outdoors close to home to connect with nature on their doorstep and parents should look to draw more on networks of family and friends, especially grandparents, to help share the load of their children getting outdoors more.

Time learning and playing outdoors also needs to become a bigger element of the typical school day.

Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “It is clear from the huge public response that our Natural Childhood report struck a chord with the nation.

“Parents want their children to have a better connection with nature, but they don’t feel completely confident in how to make that happen in a safe and stimulating way.

“Our inquiry showed that there is widespread agreement that this is an important issue and that now is the time to act.  The worlds of conservation, government, education and child welfare need to work together with families and communities to find solutions.

“As an organisation founded on the principle that people need access to open spaces, the National Trust is bringing together leaders in all these fields to discuss how to tackle this issue together”.

The Inquiry however recognised that there were some big barriers to a closer relationship with nature. These include excessive health and safety rules, the rise of indoor entertainment competing for children’s time and attention, traffic dangers, over-stuffed school days, and the poor quality and accessibility of green and natural spaces in many communities.

Research with children and parents commissioned by the National Trust to accompany today’s publication of the inquiry findings strongly validates these conclusions.

A YouGov survey [1] of 419 UK parents of under 13s revealed that a range of parental fears and concerns could be preventing children from getting the most of the outdoors.

Stranger danger (37%), lack of safe nearby outdoor places to play (25%) and too much traffic (21%) were the top ranked barriers amongst parents of children aged 12 or under.

Just short of half (45 per cent) of parents of pre-teens identified ‘more local safe places to play’ as the thing which would most encourage them to let their children get outdoors and explore more where they lived.  The other two top solutions supported by parents were ‘more supervised play spaces’ (32%) and ‘more activities organised by schools or youth groups’ (31%).

Qualitative research by Children’s research specialists Childwise found that children also express concerns about safety, often picked up from their parents, around issues such as traffic risks, perceptions that activities such as climbing trees being seen as too risky, or anxious parents reinforcing messages around the outdoors being dangerous such as “don’t go out in the rain in case you slip or catch a cold”.

Tim Gill, author of Rethinking Childhood and leading expert on childhood and risk, and a speaker at the summit, said: “It’s perfectly natural for parents to want to protect their children. But it’s also a simple fact that children can only become confident and capable adults if they are allowed to take some responsibility for themselves as they grow up.

“When children play outdoors and in nature, they have adventures and challenges that prepare them for the everyday ups and downs of life. At the same time, the risks that make many people anxious are often over-estimated.

“A more balanced, thoughtful approach is desperately needed. We have to start recognising the benefits of spending time out of doors, rather than just looking out for the risks.”

The National Trust are today (25 September) hosting a Natural Childhood Summit bringing together community leaders, charities, local government, corporate partners and academic experts to build consensus around action needed to give every child the opportunity to form a personal connection with the natural world.

The summit seeks to build a partnership which works to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to form a connection with nature before they reach 12 years of age [2]. But support from the public, policymakers and politicians is required to make that happen.

As part of its response to the lack of connection between kids and nature the National Trust launched its 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾’s campaign in May.  More than 250 Trust places took part and in the first two months more than 200,000 activity scrapbooks given away and nearly 20,000 users registered on the 50 Things website.

 

[1] The total sample size of the parents study, conducted by YouGov Plc., was 2072 adults of which 419 were parents of children aged 12 and under. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th and 12th September.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[2] Current supporters of the Natural Childhood Summit and partners in the campaign are Arla Food, Britdoc, Green Lions, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, Play England, Play Wales and Playboard Northern Ireland.

David Pencheon, Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, said:  “Developing communities sustainably is not just about carbon reduction and building design. It is also about the role of the natural environment in allowing a lifestyle that promotes health and wellbeing. Providing opportunities for children to be active and adventurous provides long term positive impacts for individuals and is an important part of reducing health problems in later life.”

Catherine Prisk, Director of Play England, said: More than ever we live in a hectic, pressurised world. Children need to be free of that, to have the time, space and freedom to play out, to make friends, explore their world, have adventures big and small. If they don’t have freedom to play, think of the consequences for their health, the way they relate to people and their community, and most of all the consequences to their happiness.

Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive of Playboard NI, said: “The demise of outdoor play and the growth of more screen based sedentary activities is fast becoming a major contributor of health problems in childhood.  Those of us whom work with children know that children are biologically predisposed to create, explore and manipulate their play environment; therefore we need to do more to get children outside playing in natural surroundings. We need to reconnect children with nature.   Not only is this crucially important for children’s holistic development, the physical experience and social interaction enjoyed in playing outdoors also helps children gain an appreciation and respect for the natural world around them”.

Mike Greenway, Director of Play Wales, said: “It is natural for children to play outside in a natural environment. Not to play outside is by implication unnatural. The complexity that nature offers children cannot be replicated artificially. Any attempt to create a virtual alternative will be a poor imitation; and why would we want to? The natural environment provides the widest range of opportunities for play; play that facilitates physical and emotional development. Playing is how children find their place in the world, in time and space. As a species we have evolved outdoors. It is a no brainer! Children know they need to be outside, playing; when we ask them they tell us so. Why would we not want children to have a natural childhood? The fact that we are even having this debate is an indication that something in our society is wrong and needs fixing.”

The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 710 miles of coastline and hundreds of historic places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Remembering Octavia Hill

In this Olympic year, we also remember the centenary of the death of Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust.

She died on 13 August 1912, after a long career fighting for social justice, decent homes and open spaces.

Octavia Hill was a tireless campaigner and activist. Her letters brim with passion, determination and a ceaseless commitment to the cause of improving the health and welfare of the poorest in society.

In 1888 Octavia Hill published an essay, ‘More Air for London’. It was a clarion call for the value of open green space to London’s rapidly multiplying population, particularly those crammed into the slums and narrow streets of the East End.

Hill measured the open green spaces available in different parts of the city. She found that the affluent residents of west London had access to nearly eight times as much open space as those in the eastern half of the city.

Octavia Hill examined closely the provision of open green spaces for recreation and sport in the 1880s

But this was far from being a dry piece of social analysis.

‘This is different from reason and science: this is life, and this is pain. This urges me to speak, making it my duty to speak, and that before it is too late.’

Along with Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, Octavia Hill set up the National Trust to own beautiful places on behalf of the broader public.

Huge parts of the East End may now have been regenerated with the Olympic Park. But we know the social causes that Octavia Hill championed are still very real, in London and elsewhere in the country.

There remain huge problems of social inequality, urban deprivation, and a lack of access to open green spaces.

The green and pleasant land that Danny Boyle showed us at the start of the fantastic Olympic opening ceremony continues to be at risk from inappropriate and short-term development.

Therefore, as we remember Octavia Hill in the year that marks the centenary of her death, we can reflect on the continuing power of her ideas. There is much in our Natural Childhood report, for example, that Octavia Hill would have recognised and sympathised with.

The links between the causes Octavia Hill espoused and our present-day social issues are explored in more detail in a collection of essays published by Demos earlier this year while a conference at Sutton House on 27/28 September will take a closer look at Octavia Hill’s life and times.

On 22 October a special memorial service will be held at Westminster Abbey to unveil a new memorial stone to Octavia Hill – the first of the Trust’s founders to be commemorated in this way.

National Trust recruiting for kids council

A group of advisors – made up entirely of children- is being recruited by the National Trust to provide advice on how to get more of the nation’s children outdoors.

The idea follows the charity’s recent Natural Childhood Report and 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ campaign, and shows the Trust stepping up its game in encouraging children to explore the outdoors and get closer to nature.

The National Trust is looking to sign up ten children aged between seven and twelve to the council [1] where they will play an important role in developing the charity’s outdoor campaigns, and making their properties more fun for younger visitors.

The perfect candidate will be brimming with enthusiasm and fun, plus have a natural love for the outdoors and fresh air. Potential applicants are also required to have an adventurous spirit and a wild imagination. A fondness for rolling down hills or jumping in muddy puddles would be considered a bonus.

To offer children a chance to try out the National Trust and get inspiration on what they would like to change if they were appointed to the Kid’s Council, the Trust will open up its doors to children for free for the whole month of August. Over 200 places will be free of charge to children [2], giving them the opportunity to explore National Trust places across the country.

The successful council applicants will be announced later in the year and will be offered free year long access to National Trust places for themselves and their family. Canoeing, surfing and camping will be part of the winning prize to ensure kids and their families experience the full National Trust offering. The Kids’ Council will meet throughout 2013 and report their findings into the National Trust’s Visitor Experience Director, so their suggestions can be put into practise to help make the outdoors more fun for the nation’s kids.

The application process will close on 7th September 2012. Applications can be downloaded from the website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kidscouncil and sent back via email, post or handed in at National Trust properties [3]

Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director of the National Trust, comments:

“We are really committed to helping kids enjoy the great outdoors and we want to make our places the most fun and family-friendly day out destinations in the UK. I’m really excited that our new Kids’ Council will help us do just that. Our kids go free promotion for the entire month of August will not only give kids and their families the chance to get out and explore, but hopefully inspire them to apply for our Kids’ Council and let us know what we can do better in the future.”

– ends –

For more information or interviews please contact the National Trust press office at Mischief on 020 3128 6600 or nationaltrust@mischiefpr.com

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Applications can be downloaded from the website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kidscouncil and sent back via email, post or handed in at National Trust properties.

About the Kids Go Free Promotion:

The National Trust is holding a Kids Go Free Promotion throughout the month of August. There will be a number of excluded properties, which will be detailed at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/augkidsfree  To enter a property all you need to do is show your Kids Go Free voucher which can be downloaded from the website.

[2] a maximum of 2 children ( aged between 5 – 16yrs) can visit free of charge when accompanied by a paying adult

About the Kids’ Council:

For more information and to download an application form visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kidscouncil

Completed forms can be:

–         posted to 50 Things, National Trust, Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, SN22NA

–         emailed to 50things@nationaltrust.org.uk

–          [3] handed in at a property participating in the Kids Go Free offer

Terms and conditions apply. See webpage for details.

About National Trust:

The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 710 miles of coastline and hundreds of historic places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Stuck for ideas on what to do with the family this summer? The nationwide ’50 Things’ campaign to help get children outdoors and closer to nature, which has seized the public’s imagination, now appears in a practical and handy book. Packed with things to do in the outdoors, the book will get you and your family off the sofa and parachute everyone into a whirl of activity in the fresh air. National Trust price £4.99 (RRP £5.99) Available 21 July. http://shop.nationaltrust.org.uk/fiftythings

National Trust supports Play England’s Playday
Playday is the national day for play in the UK, a celebration of children’s right to play and a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives. Playday 2012 is on 1 August and the campaign theme is Get out and play! The Get out and play! campaign is calling on everyone to help make sure that children and young people across the UK have the time, space and opportunity to play outdoors.

Join in the fun at www.playday.org.uk

Playday is coordinated by Play England, Play Wales, play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland.