Young Nature 2021

Join the Teaching & Learning SIG, Royal Holloway University of London, and Brighton University for this online event for those passionate about connecting young people with nature.

A child blowing dandelion seeds into the wind

Building on the success and energy of Young Nature UK 2019, this four-day, interdisciplinary, online event is for anyone passionate about connecting young people with nature and empowering them to protect it. This timely event provides the unique opportunity to:

  • Showcase and learn from existing efforts aimed at connecting young people with nature on their doorstep.
  • Facilitate collaborations to build and identify demand-driven, scalable and cost-effective interventions.
  • Explore how young people can be the vital link in nature-based community initiatives.

Our programme will be centred around education (primary and secondary), health and wellbeing, and biodiversity conservation, with our final day focusing on community in order to bring everyone together and foster collaborations. Although activities in the UK will be at the heart of our programme, we hope that hosting this event online will encourage participants from across the world to bring their input to this globally relevant topic.

This inclusive event is open to all: practitioners, researchers, educators/teachers, and students.


This event is co-organised by

  • Dr Deborah Harvey (Royal Holloway University of London; @deborahjharvey, @schoolsbioboost)
  • Dr Rachel White (University of Brighton; @Rach_L_White)
  • The BES Teaching & Learning Special Interest Group (@BES_TLSIG).


Running across four days, with alternating half-day morning and afternoon sessions, the programme will include keynote speakers, lightning talks, posters, workshops and round-table discussions focusing on core issues.

Each day will highlight one of four themes:

  • 21 June (afternoon): Education (considering how learning about nature and the environment features in the primary and secondary curriculum).
  • 22 June (morning): Biodiversity and Conservation (highlighting the important role of young people in conservation and enhancing local biodiversity).
  • 23 June (afternoon):Health and Wellbeing (focusing on the benefits that being outside in nature brings to young people’s mental and physical health).
  • 24 June (morning): Working Together (building collaborations between schools, local communities, practitioners and universities).

Confirmed keynote speakers

Professor Marcus Grace (University of Southampton)

Marcus is Professor of Science Education at the University of Southampton. Previously, he taught science at comprehensive schools in London and was Headteacher at a Berlitz school in Tokyo. His main interests centre around learning and teaching about socio-scientific issues, particularly biodiversity conservation, health and wellbeing and environmental issues, and outdoor science education. His current work includes developing realistic ways of helping young people engage with outdoors to enhance their appreciation of the natural world and improve health-related attitudes and behaviour.  Find out more here.

Dr Nadia von Benzon (Lancaster University)

Nadia is a social geographer based as Lancaster University with particular interest in geographies of children and families and geographies of health and wellbeing. Previous research has included research with learning disabled young people exploring access to the natural environment. She is particularly interested in methods, ethics and practice of research with marginalised and vulnerable people and the promotion of knowledge sharing opportunities in this area. Nadia’s current research looks at nature-based interventions for young people’s health and wellbeing, and she was lead editor of the textbook Creative Methods in Human Geography, published by SAGE earlier this year. Find out more here.

Julie Newman (XPolli:Nation Educator and Outdoor Education Trailblazer)

Julie is an educator with over 30 years experience across the primary age range. Actively involved in outdoor education for about 13 years, she is passionate about getting children outdoors, with the aim of inspiring them to connect with local nature. This has included teaching citizen science projects, gardening and exploring the use of technology in nature engagement. Involved in national projects in a variety of roles, she is currently part of X-Polli:Nation, working to bring about positive change for pollinators. She is currently based at St Alban’s CE Primary School, Hampshire, where students created the national conservation campaign PolliPromise and won three Bees’ Needs School Champion Awards from DEFRA. @msnewman1001

BTO Youth Advisory Panel

The British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Youth Advisory Panel aims to ensure young people’s voices are better represented within the organisation and the wider birdwatching community. The Panel consists of 11 young volunteers, aged 16–25, from a wide variety of backgrounds. Since launching in 2020, they have developed a three-year youth engagement strategy and recruited 15 BTO Youth Representatives. They are now working hard to deliver the ambitious objectives of their strategy, which include the launch of a birdwatching equipment donation scheme, developing school resources on birds and wildlife, and creating free online training courses for young people. Their enthusiasm, motivation and dedication to making birdwatching more accessible and inclusive are truly inspirational. Faye Vogely (BTO’s youth engagement programme lead) and members of the Panel will deliver this talk. Find out more here.


During the event there will be parallel workshop running on each day, shown below. Workshops will require pre-registration, and more details on this will be sent to delegates soon.


A practical way of connecting with nature in the secondary classroom, as part of the curriculum – Jane McRae, Bloom Educational Courses CIC

This workshop will focus on an approach to connecting children to nature within the existing curriculum that does not need extra-curricular activities. The workshop involves an experiential element: mindful connection to nature through the senses; an outline of how to relate curriculum material to nature; a well-being element for both teachers and pupils; evidence from practice; discussion about how this could apply to other subjects and its cross-curricular potential.

National Curriculum Outdoors: a whole school approach – Deborah Lambert, Taking Maths Outdoors

The National Curriculum Outdoors is a recently published, hugely successful award winning series of books support teachers to take their learning outdoors by linking curriculum objectives to a progression of outdoor lesson plans for every subject and year group. Hear from the authors themselves; how the books evolved, the research behind the content and how the books can use these to develop a whole school approach to outdoor learning.


Training the trainers: Enhancing youth learning outcomes from environmental science events – Victoria Burton, Natural History Museum London

An increased connection to nature is often one of the goals of outdoor environmental learning and citizen science programmes. This interactive workshop aims to support environmental educators to enhance the learning outcomes for young people who take part in citizen science and similar environmental activities. We welcome attendees’ reflections and feedback on this training activity and how it could be applied in real world contexts.

How can the education system better support our young people to actively learn in nature and find a job in the green sector? – Fiona Groves, The Wildlife Trusts

Is the education system fit for purpose to support our young people to actively learn in nature and find a job in the green sector? In this workshop we will consider how we can ensure that: 1) Access to connections and active learning, outside and in nature, is embedded into the education system. 2) There are more opportunities for upskilling young people to enter the green sector -3) There is a better understanding on the range of jobs, roles, and routes to future employment in the environment and wider sectors.


How can co-creative community arts practices inspire nature connection in young people? – Jenny Hallam, University of Derby

This workshop explores an outdoor, arts-based intervention run by Urban Wilderness in partnership with an English primary school. During the workshop transcripts of audio recordings and photographs taken during the workshop are analysed to provide insight into the way in which co-creating art developed a sense of connection to the park and encouraged the young people to view it differently. This informs discussion centring on sharing practice, collaboration and co-production with young people.

Better out than in: Rewilding the gatekeepers – Natalie Ganpatsingh, Nature Nurture CIC

It is incumbent on outdoor learning professionals to reach those children and young people most disconnected with nature, but how can we tackle health inequalities and reach these marginalised groups? How can we ensure that teachers integrate nature-based learning despite curriculum pressures, health and safety concerns and a reluctant senior management team? In this workshop, Natalie and Teresa from Nature Nurture CIC will share their insights from their ‘Wild Teaching’ programme.


Beyond inspiring and connecting with nature….. into impacting on future education and career choice – Karen Devine, British Ecological Society

The BES summer schools for 16-18 year olds were set up as a mechanism to provide inspiring access to ecological research and ecologists when other summer holiday placement schemes couldn’t take place. After 5 years of developing programs for 16–18-year-olds to engage in our summer schools, we have developed a list of what does and does not work well and what really does not work at all.

How to campaign – Sara Collins, Forest School Association

The positive impact of nature on mental wellbeing is evidence based, well documented and recognised. We are calling for the government to invest in a Nature Premium to fund regular nature experiences for all children. It would be a statutory requirement for schools to take children regularly into nature. We will share our campaign experiences and top tips as to how to lobby for positive change using very little money and creative hutzpah.


Tickets are still available for this event with the following prices:

  • BES Student Members – £20
  • Regular Student – £30
  • BES Member – £30
  • General Admission – £40

Registration is open until 17:00 (BST) Monday 31 May.

Register here

Follow the event on Twitter with #YoungNature2021

If you have any questions about the event, please get in touch with Deborah Harvey and Rachel White