This evening I went to a Bangor Bird group talk by Lucy McRobert on "The Nature of Youth". It promised to be a very interesting talk and I was pleased to see so many students there after advertising it on various social networking sites.
Lucy didn't disappoint. The talk discussed the issue of younger generations becoming increasingly removed for nature. This is an issue close to my heart. Nature has always been a part of my life and I struggle to understand why so many people find it so hard to enjoy being outdoors these days. I spent the summer months of my gap year as a Nature Director at a summer camp in America, and it astounded me how little the kids knew about natural things. I'd tell them the simplest things; like the fact that turtles and snakes were both reptiles and that, although unpleasant, the snapping turtle had to eat the frogs in the pond to survive; and they were gob smacked. They just seemed so removed from the natural environment. Even these basic facts seemed like major scientific revelations to them.
I can't understand why education in general, and the curriculum in particular, has stepped away from active, practical learning and pushed towards classroom based learning that follows a strict set of rules and doesn't allow teachers the time or flexibility to create lessons that integrate the subject matter and practical learning. The lessons I remember most, and that I learnt the most from, when I was in school all involved some sort of practical activity or were simply based outside.
It's hard to think that the grade driven educational system is pulling kids into a world that doesn't give them the time and freedom to get outside and learn through experience, creativity and simply getting their hands muddy!
I sincerely hope that my future career affords me the opportunity to bring kids out of the classroom and get some practical experiences, that allow them to relate their academic subjects to the natural world. Every child enjoys looking under rocks, building dams, drawing pictures or learning the names of the things around them. By allowing them the time to enjoy these things, and encouraging them to continue doing them throughout their lifetime, I feel the next generations will grow up to be more rounded human beings and have a greater consideration for the well being of the environment around them.
Hopefully, in the not too distant future, organisations like A Focus On Nature, RSPB, Scouts, Guides, The National Trusts, BTO etc. will be able to influence politicians and the educational system in a meaningful way, that allows children to be taken out of the classroom or, at the very least, be taught about the importance of nature and a natural environment. Once it is recognised how many benefits can be gained from this sort of education, some of the red tape and health and safety regulations might be lifted enough to allow children to enjoy nature in the way they deserve.