Future is bright for young environmentalists

Outdoor education gives young people the skills and confidence to become the green workers of the future, according to the conclusion of a five-year lottery-funded programme. 

The report looked at the results of Our Bright Future, a £33m programme of 31 different environmental projects supported by a range of organisations and charities. It concluded that confidence, mental health and employment skills were all improved in the young people taking part. 

Shropshire-based Field Studies Council, a leading environmental education charity, was one of the organisations which helped equip young people with the skills and knowledge needed to make a career in environmental roles. 

Chief executive Mark Castle said: “Our Bright Future was an imaginative and innovative way to get young people involved in the natural world, and I’m delighted that the independent evaluation has found it had such a big effect. 

“Many young people don’t realise that there is a such a big choice of roles when it comes to working in the natural environment, and it’s great that so many have been introduced to the possibilities through Our Bright Future. 

“We already know from research that allowing young people to work and learn in an outdoor environment has huge social, cognitive and emotional benefits. Our Bright Future has also shown that working together in nature can also improve mental health and increase self-confidence and employability skills, all while having a positive impact on local nature and communities. 

“We were delighted to be involved in the programme at every stage and I hope it has helped a whole new generation to enjoy, conserve and enhance the natural world around them.” 

The Our Bright Future programme, co-ordinated by The Wildlife Trusts, saw more than 128,000 young people aged 11 to 24 taking part in projects which improved 3,000 community spaces and created 350 nature-rich areas.  

The Field Studies Council, which has its headquarters located near Shrewsbury, was directly involved in three of the projects, based in Shropshire, Yorkshire and nationwide. 

Growing Confidence, a three-way partnership between Field Studies Council, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Fordhall Farm and based at the Preston Montford study centre near Shrewsbury, helped young people aged 13-25 to build social confidence and discover some of the many ways the environment can offer a career option.   

Vision England was a partnership between Field Studies Council and specialist charities working with visually impaired children and young people, and used residential outdoor education experiences to help increase their confidence and ability to explore outside. The activities were co-designed by the young people themselves. 
 
In Green Futures, Field Studies Council supported Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust by providing residential space, staff support and work placements for young people taking part.  

As a result of Our Bright Future, 8,674 young people gained formal qualifications including Duke of Edinburgh Awards and first aid, 1.627 took on internships, work placements or apprenticeships, and 203 started their own environmental businesses. 

Ninety-five per cent of the participants thought their self-confidence had improved, with 52 per cent noticing it had improved a lot. Eighty-six per cent felt their mental health and wellbeing had improved, with 40 per cent reporting a major improvement. 

The projects the young people completed helped to increase biodiversity and improved access to and enjoyment of natural spaces by local communities. 

Almost all said they cared more about the environment and 80 per cent now believed they could make a difference to their local environment. 

For more information about the projects that the Field Studies Council was involved in visit https://www.field-studies-council.org/about-us/projects/our-bright-future/.

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