Project Wild Thing.
A national report launched today has revealed that only 10% of children in the UK have a level of connection to nature deemed 'realistic and achievable' for all children. Whilst we all know that increased screen time, pressure on family time and parental fear are the main barriers to children getting outdoors, there is still a decline in children's access to nature.
Two things that really stand out of this report to me are the facts that only 10% of children regularly play outside compared to 40% in 1970 and that connection to nature was significantly lower for children in rural areas compared to urban areas. What is going on? Are our lives so busy and our children's diaries so full that they don't have time to play outdoors? I hang my own head in shame as I realise that as my children are growing up, we too are spending less time outdoors, mainly as the sports clubs the boys belong to, are taking up an increased amount of time as the boys have got better and more serious about it. The majority of their outdoor time is under supervision, whilst we stand on the sidelines!
I can totally understand the fact that rural children have less access to nature as the countryside isn't as accessible as you think it is. There is more areas fenced off, you have to stick to footpaths and if you live in the countryside you're in the habit of having to drive to get anywhere, public transport isn't that good! Only last summer a friend went to float some paper boats the children had made on a local stream only to be shouted at by an irate man, telling them to get out and how dare they trespass and leave litter. It's this type of experience that scares children, of course they'd have taken the boats home with them.
In two weeks time across the UK, Project Wild Thing is screening their film described by Hussain Currimbhoy as "enlightening and entertaining. Like David Attenborough and Morgan Spurlock got drunk and had a baby..." The film is an ambitious documentary, fueled by social media interest and takes a 'funny and revealing look at a complex issue, the increasingly disparate connection between children and nature'. But Project Wild Thing is so much more than a film, it has captured the imagination of the big NGO's; The National Trust, RSPB, Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts to name but a few - there are now hundreds signed up. These are the organisations who are fighting daily big conservation issues and welcoming hundreds of people on their nature reserves and land, as well as educating children and their parents. They are now driving forward some of the issues that the film is raising, the need to get our children free-roaming again, this is wonderful, in fact it is groundbreakingly fabulous.
The film is being screened across the UK in a few weeks time and you can book your tickets now. But the story starts now, in our own homes, making daily or weekly changes - the simple stuff like walking to school, jumping in puddles, picking up leaves and reconnecting with nature - I think we're out of excuses, don't you?