Monday, 9 January 2017

Environmental Curriculum

Its not the nicest of thoughts, but truthfully all of these brilliant, older, working conservationists aren't going to be here forever, therefore the people that must replace these people the next generations coming through. And how are organisations such as the BTO, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB (to name a few) going to find these people, not just the type of individuals that already have an interest in the environment and want to protect it, but enough supporters and people concerned enough to protect the environment? Well the answer is simple.... Education.

A lady called Mary Colwell has started a brilliant e-petition to get develop a GCSE in Natural History.  I have signed the petition as I would like to hear the subject debated in parliament and ensure that politicians understand how important this is, however, I do not entirely agree that a GCSE is the best way forward.

It is blatantly obvious to me that having environmental education in schools is the best way by far to reach out across the whole of the younger generation and get these people engaged from the point of view that they start forming opinions. I personally attend The County High School Leftwich, and very few, if any, people in my year apart share the same attitudes to the natural world that I do.

The sad conclusion is that not many younger people care, because they don't connect the natural world with everything we take for granted in our material world.  They haven't been shown just how much we rely on the natural world for everything we have.  Imagine how brilliant it could be if environmental science/natural history was incorporated into all subjects within the curriculum in both Primary and Secondary schools. It  could connect the younger generation with the environment and make younger people realise why the environment should be protected.  Of course it won't inspire a passion within everyone, but it may well teach a respect for what many people take for granted.

Where to start? Well I think its important that environmental aspects are taught from a very young age, so ideally Primary Schools.  At this age young people are still forming opinions and it is much easier to engage them before it becomes "uncool" to care and want to protect something. The job of Secondary Education would then be to build on this introduction and reinforce the vital link between our quality of life and the quality/health of the natural world.

I know there are many different opinions on how the environment should be squeezed into the curriculum, and some say it can't be done! Why say that though, that is just putting an obstacle in the way of something that quite frankly must be taught. I believe this can happen.  Sadly though, I don't think it could happen as a single subject that people could opt for in schools, as this would rely on the people already having an interest in the subject.  As a single environmental subject it would not reach out to the people who aren't interested or who have not had an opportunity for whatever reason to engage with the natural world already.  These young people are the important target people. The environment being incorporated across all subjects would reach out to everyone. If it is taught in some way, shape or form, no matter the lesson,  young people would form a good understanding of the impacts the human race are having.

I know this is a very emotive subject, and that change won't happen quickly, but unless we start trying to change things, then nothing happens, and we don't safeguard the natural world for future generations.


  1. I think you're on the right track with this one, Findlay, although I'm not sure in my own mind as to what the solution is, but I suspect that the cause might not be best served by a 'voluntary' GCSE subject. I find myself leaning towards a goverment directive that ecological awareness should be built into the curricula of all educational establishments, from Primary Schools, through Secondary Schools, and right up to Univerity level. With primary schools, 'Nature' is an essential subject, and helps instill the values of common decency as knock-on effect. In secondary schools, it is the science-based subjects which should include a good measure of ecological awareness. When it gets to higher education, it's subjects like engineering and manufacturing which need a strong element of ecological responsibility built into the curriculum. I'm totally out of touch with eductation these days, so maybe this is already happening, but if not, I think it should be.

    Keep up the good work. This world needs people like you.

  2. I put this comment on Mark Avery's blog too

    I do a picture quiz for school groups from Yr3 to A-level to name the Top 10 most common British birds. Very few get more than four right, the most often correct answers are robin and pheasant. The teachers are in the same league as the pupils. The general lack of knowledge about what is outside the front door is very worrying.
    The upshot of the quiz is to encourage the schools to go out and find out what's living close by and let me know, send pictures, get feedback, engage with their local wildlife, report their findings on local websites/school blogs...the more they learn the more they know they don't know and want to find out even more.
    Ideally by the end of Yr 6 all children should be able to a basic version of a Phase 1 habitat survey around their local area and identify a good number of common and 'speciality' species local to their area to include a wide variety of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates and know something of the interactions between them.
    In secondary schools this basic ecology and taxonomy should be studied in more detail and over larger geographic areas to cover local, regional, national, continental and international areas as many species cross international boundaries either in their static range or on migration.
    The scope of a GSCE syllabus all the way to A level is almost endless but definitely needed so that even those that don't take it as one of their exam subject options in Yr 10 have a good grounding in natural history and ecology. This would mean that everyone from plumbers, mechanics, nurses, planners, developers, farmers, etc etc would have at least a little more than basic knowledge of the world around them and hopefully some of the ecocide we currently see could be avoided

    What do you think Finn



  3. Hi Findlay. I organise talks at Bangor Birdgroup at Bangor Uni, North Wales. I was wondering do you give talks to birdgroups regarding the young birders view on the natural world or the like? Many thanks, Steve Culley