In the last two years 25,000 children in Scotland have been able to explore the wildlife on their doorstep thanks to a partnership project between RSPB Scotland and Aldi.
The Connecting Children with Nature partnership – a UK wide £3m project funded by discount supermarket Aldi – has helped 21,000 children in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow discover nature around their school grounds while 4,000 have enjoyed a free visit to RSPB Scotland’s Loch Leven nature reserve.
Although there are wide ranging benefits to time spent outside in nature the time children spend doing this is on the decline. The project kicked off in Scotland two years ago to encourage more children and their families to swap time spent indoors for the outdoors and have their own great wild adventure.
The schools’ outreach programme sees RSPB Scotland trained staff and volunteers deliver free 90 minutes nature experience sessions to over 200 schools in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These sessions give pupils the chance to get out of the classroom and into the great outdoors, and discover how to help the wildlife in their school grounds.
Laura Copley, the Edinburgh Schools Outreach Officer said: “Using the outdoors as a classroom can greatly increase a child’s self-esteem, teaches children how to take risks, unleashes their creativity plus gives them a chance to exercise, play, and discover the wonders of the natural world.
“It’s wonderful to see how children respond to the sessions. They experience their school grounds in a completely new way and are all so enthusiastic about making their school more wildlife friendly.”
The free outdoor learning sessions at Loch Leven allow school visits to explore the beautiful reserve and explore all that nature has to offer there from spotting peregrines flying by to discovering what insects lurk underfoot. Wild Challenge was also launched last Easter as part of the project; made up of 30 activities it allows families and schools to go on their own outdoor adventure from rock pooling to creating a hedgehog café.
Claire Carter, Head of Fundraising and Communications at RSPB Scotland, said: “Many of us can remember our first discoveries while exploring nature and we want to ensure that such memories are still being made for children today. This project with Aldi is allowing us to do just that and it’s fantastic that in just two years 25,000 children have already experienced their own wild adventure as a result.
“With spring on its way this is a great time of year to get out and about exploring. Flowers will be coming into bloom, birds are singing and wildlife that spent the winter in warmer places is beginning to arrive back. We know from previous research that children aren’t spending as much time outside as their parents or grandparents and we want to change that. Not only do we all need to inspire children as the future custodians of Scotland’s incredible wildlife, having such experiences when they are young has as a positive impact of their learning, physical health and emotional wellbeing. Nature adventures are there waiting to be had so why not get outside and experience these early days of spring?”
Fritz Walleczek, Managing Director of Corporate Responsibility at Aldi said: “It’s rewarding to see the scale of what we’ve achieved together in the past two years. Through the passion of the RSPB staff and volunteers, the partnership has helped so many young people to experience the wonders of nature. We look forward to continuing our work together and helping more children learn and gain confidence from outdoor experiences.”
To find out more about how to start your own Wild Challenge adventure with your family or school visit: www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge. To find out more about the schools’ outreach sessions visit: www.rspb.org.uk/schoolsoutreach and this pioneering partnership www.rspb.org.uk/aldi