Bringing children and nature together


  • Children 'prefer to play outdoors than watch TV'

    A survey, undertaken by Eureka Children's Museum in West Yorkshire (a place I fondly remember visting once in my youth), has discovered that 81% of children1 prefer playing outside to watching TV.

    I personally find this an incredibly heartening figure. Often one hears statements claiming that children are being consumed by electronic devices to the detriment of outdooor play – but the data from this study certainly seems to suggest that a great proportion of children have the desire and the will to spend time playing in outdoor spaces. So if children want to go outside – what’s stopping them?

    It’s not games consoles or phones. According to the survey, ‘half of the parents and carers surveyed said they did not let their child leave their home or garden’; mainly dues to worries concerning traffic and strangers. Parents value outdoor play, with 77% of parents2 agreeing that ‘an important all-year round activity for their children’, but clearly the perceived risks outweigh the benefits as far as they are concerned, and who can blame them?

    Even if some parents were to allow their children the freedom to explore and play in the way that generations past did, there needs to be a ‘critical mass’ of families allowing this to build up enough children for ‘safety in numbers’ to take effect. How can this happen?

    The study suggests: "Parents need to be provided with the tools and confidence to allow their children more freedom to play outside, or the next generation of children will become even more housebound than the current one.”

    "Parents and carers must be empowered to work with local councils on setting up street play initiatives aimed at closing off streets and instilling a sense of shared trust and collective care within a street community."

    I hope so.

     Picture credit Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

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    1From 1,456 surveyed children aged 5-11

    2Of 1,367 surveyed parents and carers

  • LOtC Heroes honoured at the Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Learning Outside the Classroom 2014

    Leading practitioners in the world of learning outside the classroom (LOtC) have been recognised as ‘LOtC Heroes’ at an awards ceremony at Masa Restaurant Winebar in Derby.

    The Awards for Outstanding Contribution to LOtC honour individuals and teams of people who have made a significant impact on the lives of children and young people through their commitment and dedication to providing and/or championing exciting and inspiring learning outside the classroom opportunities. Learning outside the classroom plays an important role in helping young people to achieve their goals by providing hands-on practical experiences that bring learning to life.  Whether it is through fieldwork, school ground activities such as forest schools, educational visits to museums, galleries, farm activity centres, or cultural expeditions abroad, LOtC can build lasting, positive learning experiences.

    Over 3,000 people participated in the public vote to choose this year’s winners. From a shortlist of 15, the final winners were: Sue Verdeyen, Three Counties Agricultural Society, LOtC Innovator; Emma Schofield, LOtC Inspiring Educator; High Fearnley-Whittingstall, Celebrity LOtC Champion and Kate Allies, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Lifetime Achievement in LOtC sponsored by the School Travel Organiser’s Guide.

    Elaine Skates, Chief Executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom said: “I would like to congratulate all of our winners, who have changed countless lives though their work ensuring that more children can experience the world beyond the classroom walls. Learning outside the classroom raises achievement and improves behaviour. It’s about making learning fun, memorable and enjoyable and makes such a difference to all children, especially those who do not engage inside the traditional classroom environment”. 

    (L-R) Ian McInnes, CLOtC trustee, Emma Schofield, winner of the LOtC Educator award, and Elaine Skates, Chief Executive of CLOtC

  • Your chance to shape our work with schools

    Hello, I’m Janet the new Schools’ Outreach Officer at the RSPB. Over the last couple of months I’ve been finding out  all about the schools that currently do amazing work with the RSPB - James is already very excited about the numbers that have registered for the Big Schools’ Birdwatch this year!

    My passion is to see children discover the wonders of nature for themselves, to explore the beauty that’s all around them. And yet I know there are less and less opportunities for them to do that these days. How can we bring back that chance to open the door on the natural world? I believe it’s right there on our doorsteps where every child works and plays on a daily basis. Even in our cities it’s amazing what difference a log pile or birdfeeder can make to wildlife. If we can connect children in a meaningful way to their school grounds, not only will they discover wonderful things about nature but research suggests that it will have a positive impact on their physical health, emotional well-being, and personal and social skills as well.

    Image credit Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)


    Here in the education department at the RSPB we’re coming up with a package to offer to primary schools that will enable children to get outside and connect with nature, whilst improving school grounds for wildlife at the same time. I’m keen to know what you think about our ideas and so I’d be really grateful if you would complete this 5 minute survey before 18 January 2015 by following this link.

    This is your chance to shape how we work with schools and by helping us we'll be giving nature a home together.

    Thank you.