Ahead of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November, Glasgow City Region has announced a plan to plant 18m trees — 10 for every resident — over the coming decade, part of a new urban ‘forest’ to tackle climate change. The announcement comes in the same few days as research is published indicating that a third of all heat-related deaths around the world between 1991 and 2018 can be attributed to human-induced climate change. There has never been a more urgent need for high-quality nature education in schools. The Forum for Life-Based Learning emphasises the importance of children learning about the environment and nature more generally as part of a fully rounded, life-based curriculum that addresses the challenges that we all face, now and in the future.
We know the damage that the Covid pandemic has done to the mental health of children and young people in particular. A recent Forum post highlighted evidence of ‘climate anxiety’ among young people, with almost three in five respondents in a BBC Newsround survey saying that they are worried about the impact that climate change will have on their lives.
NHS advice to parents on looking after children and young people’s mental health includes the following:
Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all help our mental health. Support and encourage them [children] to explore their interests, whatever they are.from the NHS website, Looking after a child or young person’s mental health
Now the BBC’s Countryfile programme has launched a major new initiative called Plant Britain. Its aim is to “galvanise the nation to get planting”. It starts with a goal of planting 750,000 trees, “one for every UK primary school starter in 2020”, and over the next two years will extend to fruit, vegetables and flowers.
“Countryfile Plant Britain wants to get everyone planting in a big, ambitious two-year project where we can all do our bit in the battle against climate change and to help wildlife and our own wellbeing.”
This BBC initiative is a fantastic opportunity to boost nature education — a chance for children and young people, families and schools to get involved in improving the environment and help make a visible difference for the future. The Plant Britain scheme includes:
The Woodland Trust is clear about the importance of educating children about — and developing their interest in — nature and the environment: “As children and young people are our decision makers of the future, it is particularly important that they learn how to care for and protect the environment.” The trust also makes the point that children who learn about woods and trees “are much more likely to grow up to be environmentally responsible adults”.
Too many children are currently switched off learning as they struggle to see its relevance. A life-based approach will improve children’s motivation to learn. Life-based learning takes the current subject-based approach for children aged 5 to 11 a stage further. Subject content is respected — all of it — but it is delivered through nine life themes that directly address the challenges we face.
Three of the nine themes — Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World — directly address our relationship with and appreciation of the natural world. A life-based curriculum will help children adopt the skills, values and practices that ensure they live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.
The image at the head of this article is from the BBC website.