Field Notes: Youth appeal
Recent John Muir Award participant Miles, 15, shares his thoughts on how to get young people more involved with nature
As 2019 is the Year of Green Action, I decided to spend my week of work experience with the John Muir Trust so I could learn more about its work for wild places and achieve my John Muir Award.
Working with Trust staff, volunteers and partners was a great experience and it got me thinking about how we could get more of my age group into (and into) wild places.
Here are my recommendations:
No matter what age, gender, religion, race or ability - everyone should have an opportunity to get involved. Extra focus on young people that are disadvantaged, or have special needs, would allow them to explore new talents they never thought they had. Don’t let the barrier of money stop young people from connecting and engaging with nature. Keep things like the John Muir Award free.
Show young people wild places around where they live to demonstrate that even the most dense cities have wildlife streaming through them. This should make them more aware of how easy it is to access nature on your doorstep.
Youth clubs and schools
Support and train youth clubs and schools to run their own environmental taster sessions for young people. Encourage schools to run forest or outdoor sessions once a week at the very least. Support things like Nature Friendly Schools and Learning for Sustainability (Scotland).
Use empty areas
Ask young people how they can regenerate the wild and nature into empty areas in towns and cities. This would let them express their own ideas and feel included in planning decisions. The co-design aspect is really important to engaging with wildlife.
Encourage young people out into the wild for a night or more. Support opportunities for residential experiences in wild places such as the Brilliant Residential campaign.
Link to lots of subjects
Focus on young people’s subjects at school and further and informal education and specifically look at what skills they want to improve or enjoy. Encourage educators to take all subjects outdoors into nature.
Focus on fun and interactive activity in the wild as an annual thing. This could get young people engaged and interacting with nature through existing events like park runs. I like things like John Muir Day, Outdoor Classroom Day and 30 Days Wild.
Have talks about what young people can do to make a positive change and consider our impacts. This could give them the responsibility and courage to do something about nature. Use online social media talks/films/blogs/images (YouTube is massive) led by young people, or people with experience who know how to communicate with young people. The ReRoute recommendations are really good.
Encourage young people who have helped their mental health in nature to help others to feel the same way, cutting down mental illness and creating a better wildlife connection. Involve people with lived-experiences (making it much more likely to influence others).
“Green space and is really helpful as a mood management tool... nature’s really important and being able to go out, especially with friends, you are away metaphorically and literally from your problems.” Jacob, 17. This quote features in Supporting Young People's Mental Health - How Urban Nature can Help - a research-based practice guide from IWUN (Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature).
PS - about my John Muir Award experience...
My advice is if want to do your John Muir Award – then just go for it! Here’s a 4 Challenge review of my John Muir Award:
Discover wild places
Garscadden Woods Drumchapel, River Clyde, Festival Park, Govan – urban green spaces, woodland. Isle of Harris, Luskentyre beach, dunes, machair, rocky coast. Loch Tuill Bhearnach and Sgurr na Lapaich, Scottish Highlands.
Spending time with John Muir Trust staff, volunteers and partners, running, walking, navigation, camping (camp fire), swimming, flying a kite, finding out who John Muir was, wildlife/weather watching, new skills.
The Big Climate Conversation in Glasgow, John Muir Trust conservation work party in West Harris (footpath building, beach clean, wild seed collection and sowing), minimum impact camping, discussing visitor pressures.
Created video blog, talked to staff, volunteers and partners, took photos, shared with friends on social media (Snapchat), shared with family, shared thoughts on engaging more young people with wildlife.