RSPB Schools Outreach sponsored by ALDI. Big Schools Birdwatch session (reception class), Livingstone Primary and Nursery School, New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Research

The RSPB believes that connecting with nature should be a part of every child’s life.

Getting all children connected with nature develops deeply-held feelings and attitudes towards wildlife and the world we all live in.

Connecting children to nature

With the kind support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Essex we’ve established a clear definition of connection to nature and a method for measuring it.

For the first time, this research - reported in Connecting with Nature, available to download - reveals how connected to nature children are across the UK. The national results show that currently only 21 per cent of 8–12 year olds have a connection to nature level that we consider a realistic and achievable target for all children.

The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is disappearing – 60 per cent of species assessed have declined over recent decades. Not only can children take action to help turn this around, but they will also benefit from having more contact with nature.

We believe everyone has a role to play in putting nature back into childhood – including governments, local authorities, schools, families and organisations like ourselves.

That is why we have joined forces to form The Wild Network and support its film-led campaign Project Wild Thing: reconnecting kids and nature.

RSPB Glaslyn Osprey Project. Osprey viewing site at Pont Croesor, near Porthmadog, Wales.

Every Child Outdoors

The RSPB believes that every child should be entitled to regular contact with the natural environment.

Cameras capture children at RSPB reserves, in an exploration into how the RSPB want to connect kids with nature as part of the Every Child Outdoors campaign. Children take part in everything from bird spotting to pond dipping.

Play video
Every Child Outdoors video screenshot

Children need nature

Our Every Child Outdoors research draws together the findings from the wide range of research into the positive impacts contact with nature has for children, as well as the environment.

These include the educational benefits, contributions to physical health and mental wellbeing, as well as development of personal and social skills.

It also explores some of the consequences of the reduction of such experiences and, sadly, the increasingly-used term of Nature Deficit Disorder to describe the phenomenon.

The report includes new independent research from Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the RSPB, on the most remembered childhood experiences of nature amongst the general public. This discovered that 92 per cent of people agree these experiences are still important to children today, and that 82 per cent agree that schools should play a role in providing them to all children.

The RSPB is committed to continuing to play our part in ensuring as many children as possible have contact with nature, and working with partner organisations to do so. We believe it is essential all parts of government and society play their role too.

To complement our research, we produced a short film showing many of the inspiring experiences children and young people have on our reserves.

Download

Over the last decade, a large amount of research has been carried out into the diverse benefits for children of contact with nature and outdoor experiences. PDF, 1.1Mb.

Every Child Outdoors

RSPB Cymru believes that every child should be entitled to regular contact with the natural environment. PDF, 766Kb.

Every Child Outdoors - Wales

Download

A report by the University of Derby for the RSPB. PDF, 1.0Mb

The Impact of Children's Connection to Nature

Saving nature –now and in the future. (PDF, 992Kb)

Connecting with nature report

A nature questionnaire for 8–12 year olds. (PDF, 69Kb)

Connection to nature questionnaire

The Connection to Nature Index (CNI) is a questionnaire developed by Cheng and Monroe (2010) to measure connection to nature in children aged 8-10 (PDF, 24Kb)

Guide to using the Connection to Nature index

A robust methodology for the RSPB. Executive summary. (PDF, 237Kb)

Measuring connection to nature in children aged 8 - 12 - methodology executive summary

Further reading

Teacher leading a group of schoolchildren across the playground, Bioblitz, Schools' Outreach Project, Glasgow
Learn more about our work with schools around the UK.
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