BLOG: Kids in the outdoors - the bigger picture

5th September 2019

A few months ago, my work took me to observe a forest schools session which was held in a place where I actually grew up. As I watched the children running round to find leaves and flowers, I couldn’t help but wish I’d had more of an opportunity to do this as a child.

We hear so much about how children are glued to their screens and how childhood obesity levels are rising, but when you actually see children in an outdoor environment, they are filled with imagination, energy and enthusiasm. They just need the chance to do it.

When I think about it, we didn’t do much of this in school though. We learnt about the world whilst sat cross legged on a classroom floor. Had I had the chance to learn more about the world whilst experiencing it outdoors, I wonder if it could have changed my perceptions of the environment.

The Land Trust recently conducted a survey about how people use green space and the results told us that only 8% of people believe that young people spend enough time outdoors. What we also found was that 98% of people said that spending time outdoors is vital for young people’s physical and mental health.

If this is what so many of us believe, then why aren’t we doing more to encourage people to get outdoors, and more importantly, encourage children to spend time outdoors?

Last year the Trust launched its new education strategy, with aims to get more schools surrounding our sites to use the spaces for outdoor learning. With over 70 sites across the UK, we have the potential to get thousands of children learning about the nature on their doorstep.

Following on from the strategy, we’ve now launched an education pack which schools or parents can use to conduct lessons and activities outdoors. It’s jam packed full of ideas and is super easy to use. If my school would have had this when I was there, I’m pretty sure I would have had a better relationship with the local environment.

The dangers posed on our environment are becoming ever more pressing, and I sometimes wonder whether that’s because of ignorance. If people don’t know about the natural world and how important it is, never mind spend any time in it, then how are they supposed to care for and nurture it?

The education pack not only teaches children the facts about the trees, leaves, creatures and flora in the environment, it asks them to go back to school or home and think about the life of these things. For example, one exercise asks children to measure the girth of a tree to figure out its age and find the youngest and oldest trees in the area. After this, children are encouraged to draw a timeline for the trees, thinking about what they will witness or experience in their life cycle.

It might be ambitious of me to say, but if we encourage people to think about the environment as a living thing, something which just like us grows, develops and encounters danger, are they more likely to grow up respecting the environment more?

I don’t know the answer to that, nor do I think that this is going to save the world, but surely the more children who have access to green spaces and are given the opportunity to learn about the natural world, the more chance we have at tackling some significant issues we are facing all over the globe.

To read more about the Land Trust’s Outdoor Learning Pack, click here



Sarah Fido joined the Land Trust in July 2018 as a Communications and Marketing Assistant.

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