The health of our planet is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Overexploitation of nature has been a major contributing factor to the Covid-19 pandemic; the virus likely crossed into humans due to unsustainable wildlife harvesting. Climate change is causing wildfires and drought, and changes in land use are resulting in a drastic loss of the biodiversity that we rely on. At the same time, health issues such as obesity and depression have been accelerating.
These health and environmental problems are linked to increased mental distancing from nature as a result of modern life and increasing urban populations. However, nature-based solutions do exist. Interacting with nature generates a desire to conserve it and boosts health, lifespan and psychological well-being. There is a pressing need to develop theoretically-informed ways of engaging with nature to promote human and environmental health.
With support from The Greatest Need Fund, Researchers at Swansea University Department of Biosciences are establishing a new outreach project to connect school children with nature in the post-pandemic world. Around 700 school pupils across 20 primary schools in South Wales and Uganda will be directly involved in the project which aims to:
- enhance well-being through immersion in nature,
- promote intercultural exchange and understanding,
- inspire appreciation of local wildlife and support conservation efforts.
The project will be led by Dr Hazel Nichols (Department of Biosciences), supported by Dr Helen Lewis and Mrs Alyssia Fiander-Houlden (School of Education).
Reconnecting our children with nature
School pupils will spend time in green spaces, immersed in nature, taking photographs of their local wildlife, from flowers growing in their school field to the animals in their houses, gardens and parks. They will then carry out research into the wildlife that they find and create their own class wildlife book, in addition to producing videos and blogs. These will be exchanged with schools in Uganda, opening discussion and cultural exchange between parts of the world with very different experiences of wildlife and climate.
The project will focus on schools in deprived areas of South Wales, as these children show the greatest benefits of engaging with nature. Activities of this kind have been proven to have substantial health benefits including the promotion of physical activity, increased well-being and even reduction of mortality rates. By creating pride in their local community and increasing their connectedness with wildlife, the project will inspire the next generation to care for the natural environment.
In rural Uganda access to educational resources is extremely limited, and children rarely even have access to basics such as clean water and electricity. By providing IT equipment and internet connectivity, pupils will be able to access new educational material, and develop their IT skills, helping to build educational capacity in Uganda.
If you’re interested in supporting this project or other similar projects, please contact us here.