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Sorrel Lyall
Every Child Wild

Posted: Monday 26th October 2015 by EveryChildWild

Part of the Every Child Wild series.

Sorrel is a passionate young birder and naturalist, wildlife photographer and artist, aiming to enthuse more children and young people about wildlife. She is now in her first year of A Levels, and hopes to go into a wildlife related career.

Going through school as a wildlife lover, I have experienced firsthand the loneliness of having a ‘weird’ hobby. It is the disconnection with nature that has made it unusual to love and respect wildlife for my generation, to the point where some of my fellow young naturalists have been on the horrific receiving end of verbal and even physical abuse from their peers. In my opinion, the root of the problem lies in education; hence the source of the solution also lies in education.

In schools there needs to be more learning about nature, after all it's a part of everyone's lives (despite some choosing to ignore that fact), and so the younger generation, my generation, needs to be taught how to love, respect and live with - not against - nature. With nature and wildlife as a larger part of a young person’s school life, it will instinctively become more ‘normal’ (I strongly dislike using that word but it illustrates my point) to love nature, or at least to not hate it.

This is an issue that is incredibly concerning with my generation; people’s hatred of wildlife. When talking to my peers recently I was astounded to hear that people my age hate certain types of wildlife, like moths and other insects. These creatures are so important for life on Earth, playing vital roles in ecosystems, and pollinating plants and our food crops. We need plants to survive, therefore we need all of these fascinating creatures. So how can we hate the wildlife we depend upon? Then I realised that my generation does not know or understand the integral roles wildlife plays in our lives, which brings us back to education.

The underlying reason for young people's hatred of moths for example, is their fear of them. I strongly believe that if we are more educated about wildlife, we will explore nature with fascination, not fear. I will happily admit that not all that long ago I was scared of certain insects, for example bees and wasps, like many people. But recently I have started trying to learn more about them, and so my fear of these creatures has floated away. Hence we need more education about wildlife so that the same can be said for all young people, not just the ones who already love wildlife.

However, it is a challenge to squeeze more topics for learning into an already packed curriculum, especially in the strict GCSE and A Level syllabuses. On the other hand, in the lower years, Years 7, 8, 9 and in primary education, this shouldn't be too hard. Although primary education does seem to have a stronger focus on nature and the outdoors than secondary education, so we should aim our efforts at the age group coming into teenagedom; the age bracket where nature seems to be neglected. So, my solution is relatively simple: make wildlife a much larger part of the curriculum than it is currently. I think that there are 3 main angles to this - classroom learning, hands-on activities at school, and trips to experience a larger variety of wildlife. In the classroom, my generation should be learning about how amazing wildlife is, the identification of wildlife (as I think that if you can identify wildlife you are more likely to engage with it), its importance to life as a whole, and how we can protect it. Interactive activities like owl pellet dissection, moth trapping, mammal footprint tunnels, camera trapping, planting a wildflower meadow, quizzes, surveys and generally investigating the wildlife in the school grounds are highly effective ways (in my opinion) of rebuilding the connection between young people and wildlife. And lastly, getting out there into wild spaces, with regular trips to local nature reserves, and trips further afield to experience some specialities of British wildlife.

So, there are my thoughts on how we can ensure that future generations love wildlife.


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