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  • Writer's pictureLinda Andrews - Editorial Assistant, Nuse Online

RHS Developing Young People's Green Skills Through Boosting Nature In Education

All schools, nurseries and colleges in England can join the National Education Nature Park, a new programme designed to empower young people to make a positive difference to both their own and nature’s future.

The programme is being delivered by the Natural History Museum with the Royal Horticultural Society and other partners, working alongside Esri UK. Responding to the urgency of the planetary emergency, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we teach climate education and support young people to act and increase biodiversity across England.

This new initiative gives children and young people the opportunity to connect to nature while investigating and recording what’s living and growing on their learning sites. They will plan and take action to boost biodiversity, through improvements such as building rain gardens, growing pollinator-friendly plants, installing bird boxes and more. Places of education taking part in the programme will become part of a vast network of spaces across England that together form the National Education Nature Park. The land from schools in England forms an area the equivalent to roughly twice the size of Birmingham, so alongside nurseries and colleges that represents huge potential to collectively contribute to nature recovery across the country.

After a successful pilot phase, teachers and education staff across England are now being invited to register their education setting for the National Education Nature Park on a brand new website. Once registered they can access the programme – which includes making sure their school, nursery or college is on the Nature Park map, activities to get started and a growing library of free newly-developed and collated climate education resources, quality assured by the Royal Meteorological Society.

To celebrate the roll out, schools, nurseries and colleges across the country are being encouraged to take part in a ‘Hidden Nature Challenge’ today to get started and a taste of what the National Education Nature Park is all about. They’ll see green skills in action and the positive impact they can have by working together. They’ll go outside and follow prompts to discover the hidden nature on their learning sites site in a quick activity that will help reveal the nature that's all around, but that might not always be seen. They’ll upload findings to an online map, where they'll be able to see hidden nature being revealed in places of education across the country on this day.

“Together with our partners, we are creating opportunities for every child and young person in England to use practical science and make actionable changes in their learning environments, to have a positive impact on biodiversity on a national scale”, says Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum. “I’m looking forward to seeing what difference it will make to nature across the country and to the programme helping to create a new generation of advocates for the planet.”

The programme is designed to develop an understanding of biodiversity and knowledge of climate change, and all learners will be able to recognise their role in the programme and how they can contribute no matter what their interests or future aspirations. The planetary emergency requires understanding and action from all, so whether learners are aspiring scientists or writers, campaigners or artists, the programme will develop the knowledge, agency and nature connectedness needed for children, young people and nature to thrive.

Clare Matterson, Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, said:

“With the world facing multiple crises, from the climate emergency to biodiversity loss, gardening can be integral to addressing them. Through gardening and development of practical and digital skills, we want to empower children and young people to make their nurseries, schools and colleges better places for people, wildlife and the planet. Saving the world starts at our fingertips.”

Eminent economist Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, whose 2021 review provided recommendations for changes in education to protect the natural world, says “Rooting Nature into our education system is a vital part of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss. The National Education Nature Park programme aims to do exactly that, by embedding Nature across subject areas and giving the next generation the opportunities to connect to Nature, along with the knowledge and skills needed to help both themselves and Nature to thrive.”

The accompanying Climate Action Awards, being developed by the Royal Society, will roll out in January 2024. They will recognise schools and colleges that have brought about change at an institutional level, supporting their students in developing green skills, championing nature and working towards a sustainable future.

Schools, colleges and nurseries can join the National Education Nature Park here.

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