Are You Connected?

At the time of writing, the world is finding out about the felling of the iconic Sycamore Gap tree.

If you find it all too disheartening, read the inspiring story of how
four children survived forty days in the Amazon jungle because of their knowledge of - and respect for - the natural environment.

(Short version: from a very young age, indigenous children in this area accompany elders on hunting and food gathering trips and thus acquire practical skills and knowledge, such as those demonstrated by the young siblings.)

Unlike Lesly, Soleiny, Tien and Cristin, many children in Britain aren't familiar with the world around them, even in rural areas. The BBC reported “Anger after poisonous plant found near school” forcing children to walk in the road. Hemlock of course can be fatal even in small doses to humans and livestock. Yet, we are surrounded by toxic plants. You probably have a few in your garden: foxgloves, laburnum, yew, and aconites for example. The leaves of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines are all poisonous (they're part of the Nightshade family).

Recently one of the British tabloids put out a warning about 'dangerous' cuckoo spit. Many of you will have spotted the harmless white frothy liquid on your plants. While the Xylella bacteria is believed to be spread by cuckoo spit, it is not known to occur in the UK and neither the froth nor the froghoppers that secrete it will harm you or your plants.

Where did our disconnect from nature come from? What can we do to reverse it?

Back just as far as our parents’ generation, most people had a relative who lived on a farm. These days, most urban people probably wouldn’t know anyone who does.

A good starting point to reconnecting with nature is simply getting outside and noticing what you see and hear.  If you're not sure where to start or you have reluctant children, take your phone with you and use an ID app or combine a walk with a spot of geocaching.  There are some great ideas here.

Kelvin Pate, an East Lothian farmer, started paying closer attention to the birds on his farm during the COVID lockdown and is now a convert to bird conservation.  Have a listen to this podcast in which he shares the changes he's made on his farm to support birds and shares his views on how people and policy can work better to protect wildlife.

RHET is a fantastic charity doing great work connecting kids with the countryside. In addition to arranging farm visits, RHET has an array of learning resources linked to the Scottish curriculum.

The James Hutton Institute is committed to raising awareness and understanding of crop-based science and their website has a variety of educational resources including our favourite, The Dirt Doctor.

Scotland's Environment website has heaps of info about Scotland’s environment, all of which have been carefully matched with Curriculum for Excellence levels and National Qualifications.

If your organisation wants to encourage families to stay at your premises longer (and hopefully spend more!), you could create a memorable learning experience. If you need inspiration, see what visitor attractions are already doing and remember to use your branding and social media handles on any resources.

Whether it's having a conversation with our children, teaching pupils, providing information for our customers or educating ourselves, there are lots of resources out there. Do let us know if we can help in any way.

More learning resources: