The State of Nature


Kate Whittington, | 27/06/13 | London

Last month saw the publication of an unprecedented report on the state of UK wildlife. 25 wildlife organisations came together to compile an extensive stocktake of native wildlife, assessing the status of a staggering 3,148 species. And the results weren’t pretty…

Based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, the report revealed that one in three of the species surveyed have halved in number in the past half century. More than one in ten of them are at risk of extinction.

This is the first time organisations have collaborated on such a scale in order to highlight the plight of our native wildlife and the urgent need to protect our already dwindling natural heritage. Whilst the report does illustrate some inspiring successes of targeted conservation work, these causes are in dire need of increased resources and public support if we are to salvage what’s left of our green and pleasant land.

Dr Mark Eaton, one of the lead authors of the report, and Principal Conservation Scientist at the RSPB said

"We need a root-and-branch rethink of how we integrate conservation with how we live and run our businesses."

One topic raised in the report that is of particular relevance to environmental education is the importance of urban green spaces in fostering connections with nature.

Around 74% of the European Union population live in urban areas, and so, for many people, urban wildlife provides their primary, and perhaps only contact with nature. It is widely accepted that this contact provides many physical and mental benefits – we need nature as a vital component of our daily wellbeing. But nature needs us too.

The report highlights the importance of inspiring the next generation of conservationists, by helping people to “experience, explore and understand the natural world.” Cultural changes, urbanisation and the rise of technology have all contributed to our disconnection from nature, with children being some of the most adversely affected. Indeed, the report quotes a recent  study in which children were found to be better at identifying Pokémon characters than common wildlife.

With it’s potential for interactive, outdoor learning, IBSE could prove a key tool in combating the disconnection of our children from nature. One needn’t go far to have a meaningful wildlife encounter, as even the most unlikely-seeming green spaces can hold some fascinating species. Sometimes it can only take one such experience to spark a lifetime’s enthusiasm for nature.


The big question is: how can we use IBSE to build bridges back to nature?

Well, there are already some great resources out there for planning wildlife-related lessons. Science and Plants for Schools have some fantastic activities and booklets available for both primary and secondary school levels; as do the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (ClotC). The Woodland Trust and the RSPB both have downloadable teaching resources, and the RSPB even offer “living classroom” events – run by their professional field teachers and accredited by the CLotC.

Plantscafé offer resources in a range of languages, as do Keys to Nature – which provide wildlife identification tools for Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the UK.

We also recently posted a link to the "Natural Curiosity" teaching resource which provides a framework for Environmental Inquiry encorporating four branches: Inquiry-based Learning, Experiential Learning, Integrated Learning, and Stewardship.

With a wealth of supplies such as these it seems likely that the issue isn’t in the availability of resources, but the effectiveness of these activities in truly engaging students and nurturing a curiosity for the workings of the natural world. If anyone has experience in running these kinds of sessions did you find it successful? What worked? What didn’t work? And how can we make wildlife more interesting and relevant to a generation which is becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world?

Photos credits:
Swallows in flight: Stuart Barr
Meadow: Richard Croft
Ringed Plover: Lisa Lawley
Glanville Fritillary: David Snelling
Dormouse: Danielle Schwarz


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