Are children suffering from a ‘nature deficiency’?
- Credit: John Ferguson
Fears children are losing touch with nature - no longer taking time to look at clouds, butterflies and watch the sunrise - has prompted a major National Trust initiative.
A Noticing Nature Project is being launched by the trust to tackle what it calls a 'nature deficiency' after adults and children across the East of England admitted they no longer spent time immersing themselves in the great outdoors.
The trust is launching activities throughout the year to help people engage more with nature as its research suggests it would make people more likely to help with environmental issues.
There is also a weekly guide on how to connect with nature including 'bite-size' activities lasting from 20 seconds to 20 minutes.
Christine Luxton, head of engagement for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, welcomes the idea as it reaffirms the work she has been doing recently to encourage visitors to get out more.
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"What the research really shows is that people don't know how to be involved in nature anymore, they've lost the ability," she said.
"We are very lucky in Suffolk we have amazing places of nature and it's about everybody making space for it."
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The research, carried out jointly by the National Trust and the University of Derby, showed 87% of children in the East of England said they infrequently or never smell wild flowers, 76% do not stop to appreciate the moon or stars in the night sky and 69% have never watched the sunrise.
Cheryl Ratcliffe is the manager of Little Foresters - a pre-school in Stowmarket which conducts many of its activities in the garden or nearby woodland - and she has spoken about how important nature is to children's development.
"We see a different side to the children when we are outdoors, inside the school they tend to play alone but in the woods they rely on each other more and interact.
"They're definitely calmer when they're outside and we go out there in all weathers, wind and rain, so they build up a real resilience."
The nursery is open to children from ages two up until primary school and even though the pupils are young, they still teach as much as they can about the environment.
Mrs Ratcliffe added: "We try to talk about the forest with them, they are very young but already some of the 4-year-olds are telling us about stuff now.
"If you start at a young age it will instil a knowledge in them of nature."
As well as showing that children are lacking awareness of the natural world, the report found that adults too are not connecting with nature.
The survey showed 62% do not listen to birdsong and only 27% say they ever stop to watch the clouds - just 6% celebrate natural events such as the longest day of the year or harvest.
Here are some simple activities to help you connect more with nature:
1- Watching wildlife (e.g. bird watching)
2- Listening to bird song
3- Smelling wild flowers
4- Taking a photo or drawing or painting a picture of a natural view, plant, flower or animal
5- Taking time to notice butterflies and/or bees
6- Watching the sun rise
7- Watching the clouds