Br­rrr-il­liant ad­ven­tures – for kids to learn out­side

Bristol Post - - ENVIRONMENT -

ITHINK the weather al­ways looks worse when you’re look­ing at it through the win­dow. The grey dreary sky, the rain drip­ping down the glass, a plas­tic bag blow­ing across the road.

Brave a trip to a park, a lo­cal na­ture re­serve or fur­ther afield onto the hills of the Mendips or the forests of the Wye Val­ley, and sud­denly the weather doesn’t seem so bad.

‘It’s rain­ing leaves!’

My group of 11-year-olds look up and see a shower of yel­low, orange, brown and red leaves, dis­lodged from the trees above them by a sud­den gust of wind, gen­tly fall­ing, ac­com­pa­nied by fat droplets of water.

This is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for them.

They are on a school visit to Feed Bris­tol (our ur­ban na­ture and com­mu­nity food grow­ing site), and are hold­ing pots full of slugs and snails, searched for un­der soggy logs. These ma­ligned crea­tures have gained the re­spect of their hu­man cap­tors through their slime trails, their sur­pris­ing speed, and their 400-mil­lion-year evo­lu­tion­ary jour­ney. One child has named his slug ‘Boris’ and wants to take him home to meet his fam­ily. He tells me ‘this is the best school trip ever’.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, chil­dren love be­ing out­side in all weath­ers. The teach­ers we work with are cre­ative and tire­less in giv­ing their pupils amaz­ing out­door ex­pe­ri­ences.

Learn­ing and play­ing out­side reg­u­larly is so im­por­tant for chil­dren’s phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

Chil­dren who spend more time out­side are less likely to be­come short sighted, are phys­i­cally health­ier, more con­fi­dent and re­silient, and can man­age stress bet­ter. With re­cent head­lines talk­ing about an ‘epi­demic’ of poor men­tal health in chil­dren, the eth­i­cal and eco­nomic ar­gu­ment for let­ting chil­dren learn and play out­side is over­whelm­ing.

At Avon Wildlife Trust we work with schools, chil­dren’s cen­tres, fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity groups to bring na­ture into young peo­ple’s lives. We run na­ture play ses­sions for tod­dlers, lead school vis­its and help sup­port school na­ture clubs, and run prac­ti­cal con­ser­va­tion tasks with young peo­ple.

Back at a wet and windy Feed Bris­tol, the chil­dren are get­ting back on the coach, with glow­ing faces and dirty hands. I re­lease ‘Boris’ back into the un­der­growth, and hope that the fam­i­lies of these kids see the joy they get from be­ing in na­ture, and en­cour­age and sup­port them to make na­ture an ev­ery­day part of their child­hood.

To find out more about our work with schools and fam­i­lies, visit avon­wildlifetrust.org.uk/learn­ing, email learn­[email protected]­wildlifetrust.org.uk or call 0117 917 7270.

Chil­dren ex­plor­ing wood­land He­lena Dolby

With Lucy Hel­lier, Learn­ing De­vel­op­ment Man­ager at Avon Wildlife Trust

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