Buried away under all the grim news this week was a lovely film clip on the BBC website about a teenager, Kat, who is using social media to spread the word about the mental health benefits of gardening. “Walking around the garden, especially in spring and seeing the first bloom is just amazing. I jump for joy,” she says. Kat also makes the point that she knows nobody of her age who gardens. LBL has regularly been highlighting the need for children to be learning about and experiencing nature in a thorough and systematic way. Plant Life is one of LBL’s nine learning themes. And now a newly published book is also making the case for enabling children to spend more time interacting with nature.
The Nature Seed: How to Raise Adventurous and Nurturing Kids is published this week. Its co-authors, Lucy Jones and Kenneth Greenway, both have a huge amount of expertise and experience in the area of humans interacting positively with the environment. An article in today’s Guardian newspaper, The more children know of the natural world, the more they’ll want to protect it, coincides with the book’s release. The article is well worth a read, making clear not just that interacting with nature is good for our wellbeing but also that children need to be learning about nature so that they also understand its importance and therefore the need to value it and care for it:
Evidence shows that spending time in natural environments as a child is the key determining factor in a continuing relationship with them, and has all the associated benefits. It is also linked with later pro-environmental behaviours. We can only love what we know, and we can only protect what we love. Giving children the chance to know the seasons, watch migratory birds and learn about the rhythms of more than human worlds is an antidote to ‘shifting baseline syndrome’. If a child can’t recognise a swift, how will they know if it doesn’t make it back one year?Lucy Jones and Kenneth Greenway, The more children know of the natural world, the more they’ll want to protect it
‘Shifting baseline syndrome’ is the idea that we lower our standards over time simply because we become conditioned to the new normal or we are too young to know what it was like in earlier times. For example, how many of us accept light pollution as a fact of modern life, meaning that we can no longer see as many stars as we could when we were children?
This website has featured a number of blogs in recent months about the importance of children having opportunities to interact with nature. For example:
This surely applies as much to children as it does to adults. Our children need to be learning about plants and about nature more generally, including the impact on mental wellbeing. We need to engage children’s interest in direct ways so that learning about the world around us is ‘hands-on’ and experiential.from the blog Taking an active interest in nature improves children’s mental health
This might include looking for locally grown produce in supermarkets, linking plants to diet, cookery classes and flower science. All children should also be given experience of growing vegetables in the school garden.
Image at the head of this article by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay.