End of project summary
The Connecting Schools to Nature project helped 72 schools and 5,000 children in disadvantaged and isolated areas of the North-East of England to connect with nature.
The ‘Connecting Schools to Nature in North-East England’ project at a glance:
- Teachers and pupils became citizen scientists through contributing ecological data to national monitoring schemes. Over 1500 camera trap image sequences were uploaded to partner organisation MammalWeb’s online platform as part of the project.
- The BES has provided ecology training through delivering workshops across the partner schools to directly upskill 79 teachers and 65 volunteer environmental educators. With over half of the teachers involved reporting that they enjoy their day-to-day teaching more and feel their wellbeing has improved.
- Eight new jobs were created to support the planning and delivery of this project.
- Over £49k has been spent on outdoor equipment and learning materials, with participating schools offered up to £400 in funding to purchase items they needed for their own green transformations – including outdoor clothes for the pupils, landscaping and pond design, gardening equipment, planters, outdoor seating/classroom materials, and wildlife survey kit (e.g. hedgehog homes, bird table/baths, microscopes).
- Expanding the project outside of just the North-East, the British Ecological Society is now encouraging schools and teachers across the country to get involved, with the official launch of our new digital platform, BES Encounters, a place for pupils and teachers to log their achievements, and access over 100 environmental learning resources.
Benefits for pupils and teachers
Our understanding of the importance of being connected to nature is ever-growing, with children in particular, benefiting from improved health and well-being, alongside positive changes in attitudes and behaviour towards the environment.
Yet the opportunities for children to connect to nature are decreasing.
The project, undertaken in collaboration with citizen science organization MammalWeb and engagement charity SMASH-UK, encouraged participating schools to open their doors to nature through wildlife-friendly activities such as creating wildflower meadows and installing camera traps which let the children discover the wildlife in their schools.
As a result of the project’s activities, 100% of teachers agreed that their students’ connection to nature and knowledge of UK wildlife has improved, and 76% of teachers agreed that their students’ well-being improved while participating in the project. Data collected from the pupils via questionnaires also revealed that following participation pupils had a higher connection to nature score and were able to correctly identify more UK species.
Rebecca Aspinall, a teacher from Nettlesworth school said “Our children now have the skills they need to truly appreciate and engage with their environment.
“The connecting schools to nature in North-East England project has encouraged the children to stop and look at what’s around them in their environment and school grounds and imagine the opportunities for nature in these spaces.”
Not only did the project positively benefit pupils, but in a profession known for its stressful nature, teachers reported increased job satisfaction and well-being. As a direct result of the project, 56% of teachers reported that they enjoy their day-to-day teaching more, and 52% feel that their wellbeing has improved.
We will soon be publishing our evaluation report where you can read more about the impacts the project had on all participants. Keep an eye out on our webpage and social media for updates.
Recognising schools for their commitment to welcoming nature into school grounds
On the 14th March 2023 the Hancock Museum in Newcastle brought together teachers, volunteers, children, representatives of the project’s team and partners to share the impact of the project. This event featured opportunities to show off how pupils made the green transformations at their school unique to them, discuss some of the often-overlooked obstacles teachers and schools face reconnecting with nature directly on school grounds and honor the achievements of all involved.
Wark Church of England Primary School, Brighton Avenue, West Denton, Dunn Street, Laurel Avenue and Nettlesworth primary schools all attended the event, and were celebrated for their commitment to all aspects of the project and the breadth of activities they took part in. Activities included:
- Running litter picking campaigns and constructing hedgehog artwork made from recycled materials.
- Making contributions to citizen science projects through camera trapping, bird watching and other forest school activities.
- Constructing bird feeders and partaking in other nature-based activities such as making stick artworks, writing creative poems and building bird clay models.
Sustaining pupils’ engagement with nature
The BES has directly engaged with 5000 pupils and 79 teachers, but thanks to the BES Encounters online platform, the ecological equipment given and the green transformations of school grounds, over 300 teachers and 10,000 pupils have benefitted from the project overall.
The legacy of the project will continue through the BES Encounters platform which collates over 137 different resources for teachers (lesson plans, worksheets and assemblies) and a variety of activities for children, all produced with the aim of continuing to allow children to engage with nature in a school setting. So far the platform has seen over 3,900 nature-based activities logged over the course of the project.
Yadvinder Malhi, President of the British Ecological Society, reflected on the growing need to get back out into nature, “The Connecting Schools to nature in North-East England project represents what we need to do at a larger scale.
“Participating in these activities has sparked an engagement with and appreciation for nature that will stay with them their entire lives. For some, this spark will carry them through their ecological careers as they grow up to protect nature and restore our natural world.”
Any primary school in the UK can sign up to Encounters for free. Hopefully the platform will aid many more schools start their nature connection journeys!
Following the success of the project we will be setting up a nationwide teacher’s network for any teacher (primary or secondary) interested in engaging with ecology. Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear updates from the new network:
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