My background is in environmental education and this is a subject that I think is more important than ever right now.
As a race we have become so bogged down in the daily running of our lives that we form a bubble around ourselves that appears to limit our vision of the wider world. I am guilty of this too, sometimes.
You can forget that there is so much beauty and wonder in the world if you only stop to take a moment. As children, most of us had this wonder, in the days before work and mortgages and grown up emotional turmoil.
Yet more and more children are being separated from the natural world, being disconnected and disassociated with the outdoors. Technology undoubtedly has a role to play in this, but schools and parents have to take some of the blame too.
A few years ago, Forest School was a thing that a lot of primary schools picked up on as being a great thing. Children get to spend a couple of hours outside doing things a lot of us did as kids – tracking animal prints, building dens, creating pictures from leaves and rocks, sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows. Unfortunately, with government targets and the National Curriculum being as they are, teachers found that they simply didn’t have the funds to pay for an outside tutor, nor the time to take out of the pupils’ day to ‘indulge’ in such activities.
When I saw an article online stating that many ‘natural’ words were being removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, I genuinely believed it was a hoax. It was inconceivable that such a scholarly organisation would remove words such as kingfisher, magpie, otter and catkin and replace them with words such as blog and chatroom.
I understand the world is a constantly changing place and growing up in a fast-paced hamster wheel, you probably do need to know what a modem is at the age of 7. But surely you need to know how to spell acorn and buttercup and buzzard too? These are examples, I don’t know if these words are still included in the dictionary.
I had a sharp reminder last night that we all have a responsibility to our children to create for them a magical space in their natural world that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.
We have a visiting badger in our front garden which we feed nightly. My children have yet to glimpse it and last night, when the dog started barking around 11pm, my daughter got up and sat waiting for it. I went back to bed and told her she could wait as long as she liked. Half an hour later she came running into my room saying “the badger’s here!”
Upon looking out, it was actually a fox. Which was brilliant, of course, but I was a little shocked that at 5 years old, she’d got the two confused. Ok, she’d never seen either before in the flesh, but I am now out of my rat-race bubble and firmly back in the realms of teaching my children all I can about nature.
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