Along with so many others in the UK, and around the world, we attended the climate strikes. Climate change will affect our lives in so many ways in the future. In fact, it already affecting our lives in so many ways.
A strong concern for the environment underpins the development of Outdoor Learning Experiences. Central to the ethos of Outdoor Learning Experiences is the belief that people need to engage with and learn about nature, so that they can then value it.
We aim to achieve this through a range of experiences, for example
- Forest school encourages people to learn through play in woodland areas. Through touching, seeing, smelling and playing with things, children engage with nature first hand. Collecting and making things in nature art and craft encourages people to observe and examine natural objects more clearly, and to develop a relationship with nature. Regular and repeated visits to a site allow people to develop an attachment to a natural place.
- Visits to farms allow people to walk through the countryside, and learn more about how it is managed, including the challenges of trying to meet our needs for food while also caring for the environment.
- Outdoor science lessons enable children to learn in more detail about nature and wildlife all around them.
These activities are not just for children – and Art in the Woods, our annual celebration of nature art and craft in Hitch Wood, is coming up on October 13th, 2019 and open to all. Farm visits are offered to school children, University students, and other community groups, upon request. The annual Open Farm Sunday provides an opportunity for people to come to our farm open day in June each year.
Environmental change will shape what we can grow in future years, whether that be annual crops for food or tress planted now with the expectation that they will reach maturity in 40 or more years. Climate change may change our landscape, the wildlife, and our farming, over the next generation. So attending the climate strikes in London was a natural thing for us to do.
In 2008 I interviewed 34 about their motivations, and rewards, for hosting visits to their farms. As we approach the month of “Open farm schooldays” and the weekend of Open Farm Sunday, when more than 400 farmers will open their doors to the public, it’s worth revisiting the reasons why they do so.
- A belief that the wider public (children and parents alike) had lost touch with the knowledge about where food comes from. Famers are keen to explain how food is produced, and teach children about the source of the food they eat. “It’s important for the agricultural industry to engage with customers and future customers.”
- A belief that that children need to be taken out of the classroom to experience different learning opportunities. “Education of children through hands-on visits to farms rather than books and academic work a better way”.
- A desire for children to learn about their local environment. “The school curriculum [comes from] far afield: Africa, S America… but local countryside should be included also”
- Many farmers feel privileged to have access to the countryside, and want to share this with others. “Sharing countryside with people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be there.”
- “To show them why we do what we do.” Explaining complicated farming operations to those who might observe this from a distance, justifying the use of current farming practices, including methods of rearing livestock, use of pesticides and herbicides. “Get people out, see what we do, grow.”
- A desire to justify the subsidies that farmers are given. Farmers were well aware that they receive a large amount from the public purse in the form of subsidies and grants, and felt they should show how the money was used, and why it was needed. “Feel it is part of the social responsibility of farmers to educate the wider public.”
- Counteract the bad press of E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, Mad Cow disease. Farmers want to show counteract these fears by showing that they are farming responsibly. “show how we make food safe and affordable.”
- Promote agricultural careers. “The more we can interact with children it will affect their decisions about what they want to do and where they want to work.”
- Take pride in their work, their industry. “Overcomes “get off my land” perception.” “To promote the industry we spend our lives in.”
- In addition to these industry concerns, many farmers said they did it because of the personal rewards of seeing children really enjoying themselves, and discovering about food, farming and the countryside. “Pleasure out of seeing them enjoy themselves.” This personal, heart-warming reward was, for many, justification in itself to do the visits. “I’m very lucky in what I do.”
To see the full research report visit http://bit.ly/1XQgyso
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