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Project Wild Thing: reconnecting kids with nature – one nature museum at a time

Project Wild Thing: reconnecting kids with nature – one nature museum at a time

by Tom Seaward, who works on Project Wild Thing, a film-led campaign to get children outdoors.

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As a child I was a nature hoarder. I kept my own museum under the bed. Just a chocolate box, but it was filled with things I’d collected while out and about.

The prize of my collection was a seagull skull, bleached by the sun.  I’ve still got it somewhere, along with the funny looking shells, shards of pottery, home-made paper and a roman slingshot stone that made up the rest of my museum. It might even still be under the bed.

I grew up with nature around; with parents who enjoyed dragging my brother and I out for long country walks. My granddad had taken early retirement to potter around in a boat, bird-watching and searching for unusual molluscs. As a five year old, I was rarely without my sand-coloured gilet liberally scattered with pockets – a mini-me replica of my granddad.

Tom getting to grips with nature alonside his grandfather

With this introduction, learning about species and how ecosystems worked seemed fairly natural. I was lucky at school in having teachers who took lessons outdoors. We even went on a residential school trip to a local Field Studies Council centre to test the flow of rivers and study soil erosion (which was a lot more fun than it sounds).

I’m not convinced that all children are getting these experiences today. According to one study almost three quarters of children feel that the outdoor environment is not used enough by teachers at school.

It’s a shame. The benefits of learning outdoors are about more than just making kids brainier. Learning outside the classroom – whether that’s fieldwork or a nature trail – can boost wellbeing, improve behaviour, social cohesion and school morale.

If children don’t get hands-on experience of nature - if they don’t learn about it – they won’t develop a connection to it either. And if they don’t form a connection to the natural world as kids, why should we expect them to care about it as grown-ups?

Reconnecting children with nature isn’t some middle class pipe dream. It’s vital.

A new film and campaign is trying to do just that. Released in cinemas across the UK last October, Project Wild Thing tells the story of children’s retreat from the wild. It follows father of two, David Bond who, worried by his kids’ disconnection from the outdoors, appoints himself the Marketing Director for Nature and launches a campaign to get children, like his own, back into nature.

The film launched a campaign to reconnect young people with the natural world. Supported by the Wild Network, a rapidly growing movement of over 5,000 people and organisations, the campaign is calling on people to get at least 30 minutes more ‘wild time’ every day.

The campaign is a response to how disconnected from nature children and young people have become.

New research from the RSPB has found that only 1 in 5 young people have a connection to nature. That’s 4 in 5 who won’t care if Great Crested Newts start dying out or that there’s a really interesting wildflower growing in their garden. For national biodiversity, raising a generation who grow up without a connection to or a care for nature could be catastrophic.

Project Wild Thing isn’t about finding the next Michaela Strachan or David Attenborough, but we do want to inspire a love for nature, to encourage children and their families to get outdoors to make sure they can roam free and play wild.

Find out more about Project Wild Thing at www.projectwildthing.com. You can buy the DVD, watch the film online or put on your own wild screening for friends, neighbours and colleagues.

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