It's been a while since I last wrote a blog post and here we are again, back in lockdown. I thought it would be a great time to share with you some interesting research that was conducted about nature connection in the first one back in March last year. It was surprising in many ways, but one of the most beautiful things to come out of it was watching more and more people connecting with nature.
Most of you know I am currently studying a Masters in Outdoor Education. The essay I am writing at the moment is about Place Pedagogy. In simple terms, Place Pedagogy is about creating connections between people and places. The roots of Place based learning are the same roots as Forest School, in friluftsliv, a Scandinavian way of living which translates as 'free air life'. Forest School happens in the same place, with the same people every week, that is one of the core principles. The children connect with place, connect with that natural environment and they, themselves, become part of the history of that place. We tell stories, we learn about the natural and man made structures in the woodland, we explore, we connect with one another. Place based pedagogy is exciting, it is forward thinking and it helps create a brighter future for both children and the environment by creating connections with the natural world as well as with each other.
So what happened in the first Covid 19 lockdown?
Stuck at home, told to only exercise in your local area, where did you go? We were constantly receiving messages from many of you about local green spaces you had discovered that you didn't know about. You were visiting those places every day, learning about the flora and fauna, the history of the land, letting your children play in them. This is place based pedagogy. By being told you couldn't travel you were actually connecting better with the places closer to home.
I have just read an amazing study by the University of Cumbria that studied increases in nature connection during lockdown. I really suggest everyone reads it, it was amazing to see the data for what we all witnessed. You can find it here. The study found the following;
• There has been a large increase in desire to spend time in nature among adults in the UK. 72% of women and 60% of men reported that they are more likely to spend time in nature in future, following lockdown.
• Lockdown saw all age groups spending more time in nature daily.
• 66% of the parents/guardians surveyed say their children have been spending more time than usual in nature during lockdown (only 16% report less time than usual).
• Listening to birdsong was the most common way adults noticed nature during lockdown (94% of respondents), followed by watching wildlife (87%) and taking time to notice bees or butterflies specifically (83%).
• More than a third of respondents had intentionally studied nature in detail during the UK
lockdown, for instance by learning to identify trees or birds.
• UK adults have engaged with social media and other media in relation to nature more often than before lockdown, with the increases being greater among women than men.
• 77% of respondents had taken a photograph or video recording of nature during lockdown.
• There has a been a large increase in UK adults speaking about nature with friends and family during the lockdown (two-thirds of respondents report doing this more often).
• The results suggest experiences during lockdown may be associated with increased nature
connectedness among the UK adult population. 95% agreed with the statement ‘Spending time in nature is very important to me’ and 99% agreed with the statement ‘I find beauty in nature’.
Compared with before lockdown:
• 70% of respondents say they will be more likely to notice nature in their local area in future and only 0.1% say they will be less likely to.
• Most respondents who have a yard or garden say they are now more likely to encourage nature in their yard/garden in future and no respondents indicated they are less likely to do so.
• 57% of young adults aged 18-30 years say they are more likely to consider global environmental issues in future.
• Parents and carers in the UK are now considerably more likely to encourage their children to spend time in nature in future, according to the survey results.
Lemmey, T. (2020) Connection with Nature in the UK during the COVID-19 Lockdown. University of Cumbria.
Pretty amazing progress!
However, another thing I noticed during lockdown was the discrepancy between access to natural green spaces between our families that lived in rural and urban settings. Many of our parents were having issues with being able to walk with their children to these spaces when they could not drive. This is part of an issue known as Environmental Justice - the idea we are working towards giving everyone equal access to green space, clean air and safe clean spaces to work, play and learn. Those who live in urban settings are more likely to come from deprived backgrounds and minority groups and are less likely to be able to access nature. The report states that '92% of those living in a village or rural location had watched wildlife, compared with only 50% of those in urban areas with little or no green space nearby. The only noticing nature behaviour where urban residents with little or no green space nearby did not have the lowest participation was ‘I have watched clouds.’ For all other noticing nature behaviours, the greatest participation by percentage was reported by those resident in a village or rural location, followed by the those whose neighbourhood was ‘urban, town or fringe with nearby green space’, and least for those living in urban areas with little or no green space nearby.’
The essay I am currently writing is exploring the idea that place pedagogy helps those in urban environments to find natural spaces to connect with nature, to seek out the green within the grey. Will this help us work towards environmental justice? Had the lockdown experience taught you about green spaces around the corner which you didn't access before?