Andy Simpson of the RSPB introduces a brand new approach to measure how connected children are to nature.
Were you encouraged to get outdoors and explore when you were a child? Do you remember building dens, climbing trees or maybe going on a hunt for creepy crawlies?
Do you still enjoy being outside now? Have those childhood experiences inspired you to have a connection with nature through your life?
I was eight years old when my Auntie Betty brought me a copy of the Observer Book of Birds. I can still remember the excitement as I studied the colour picture of a kingfisher. I grew up in a mining village in County Durham and until then had only encountered flocks of starlings.
It was in the same year that my Uncle Carl, a fisherman, took me out on his boat where I got to see a kingfisher for the very first time. Being patient when you’re eight isn’t easy but it was worth it and that memory has stayed with me throughout my life and undoubtedly sparked my lifetime interest in nature.
To many people it would seem obvious and unquestionable that exploring the world around you is a crucial part of childhood. We know that inspiring children is the most effective way to ensure a connection to nature is carried right through to adulthood. If children don’t have a connection to nature, they’re less likely to realise its value or feel a sense of responsibility to save it. This puts the future of our wildlife and natural environment under threat not to mention the negative impacts on our children.
Unfortunately, it’s now widely accepted that today’s children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK.
The RSPB, with support from partner organisations; University of Essex and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, have developed a brand new approach to measure connection to nature. This groundbreaking research will be used with 8-12 year olds across the country to help us create a baseline measure for the UK so that we can gauge just how connected our children are.
This new approach explores children’s empathy for creatures, responsibility for nature, enjoyment of nature experiences and sense of ‘oneness’ with nature.
We will announce this national baseline next spring and measure it again in two years time. We’ll also be urging the Coalition Government to adopt this as their official indicator for whether their efforts to improve connection to nature are having an impact.
The RSPB believes that every child should be entitled to regular contact with nature. That’s why we recently joined forces with an exciting mix of organisations as a core partner in the Natural Childhood Partnership – to bring about real change in the relationship between young people and nature.
But it’s not just about children. No matter how old you are, connection to nature is really important. You can check your own level of connection to nature at www.rspb.org.uk/getoutdoors
So this weekend, why not relive your childhood and get outdoors and enjoy!