Field Notes: John Muir Award helps families flourish during lockdown

Award provider for the South Downs National Park Authority, Siân Jones, shares her experiences of working with families during the pandemic

Sdnp charlie and hugo in their den detail

As the Families Outreach Officer for the South Downs National Park, I started 2020 with plans to build on our long-standing engagement with the John Muir Trust, by delivering a family focussed John Muir Award project - but Covid-19 restrictions put paid to that! However, I was still determined to encourage families to get involved in connecting, enjoying and caring for wild places across the South Downs.

We used the framework of the John Muir Award scheme to support families remotely to work towards and achieve their Family John Muir Award. Interested families were sent weekly digital newsletters which were brim-full of activity ideas to get involved in.

We made the Award as inclusive and accessible as possible by designing activities that people could do on their windowsills, in their local parks, gardens if they had one, as well as across the South Downs National Park. Activities included growing vegetables on a windowsill from left-overs, leaf rubbing, wild writing and what to look out for on daily walks and adventures.

We also linked participants to nature connection activities our partners were doing, including the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Gilbert White’s House and the RSPB.

Families took responsibility for their local wild places by getting involved in lots of activities including litter picking, planting pollinator friendly plants, making bird feeders and creating hedgehog highways.

Participants shared the activities they had done by posting photographs and drawings. Families who completed the four challenges of the Award and at least 25 hours of activity were presented with a Family John Muir Award, as well as a selection of South Downs National Park goodies to mark their achievement.

SDNP Family Award - Jack and Sophie litter picking

Photographs courtesy of South Downs National Park.