On Thursday evening I was invited by the National Trust to attend a screening of Project Wild Thing at the Anglia Ruskin University as part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival. I was also invited to participate as a panel member in some discussion afterwards about the film and how we can work to reconnect children and nature. Connecting children to nature is a subject close to my heart and one reason I work for a charity like the RSPB, so getting the opportunity to see the film and talk about something I believe is vital not only for future conservation but for our children as well was fantastic.

The film itself was at times disheartening, mainly because it seems we have so far to go to ensure every child has the opportunity to enjoy nature, but it was also inspirational. David Bond is a charismatic self appointed marketing director for nature and I think he does a wonderful job of encouraging everyone he speaks to get involved with Project Wild Thing and The Wild Network. If you get the chance to see the film, you really must. It sends a very strong message about how important it is for us to resist the temptation of staying wrapped up indoors and to make the effort to get outside and enjoy the world around us.

The discussion after the film was led by Ben Cowell, the regional director of the National Trust, alongside myself, Elizabeth Appleton from Huathe and Jo Ling a freelance education consultant. It was great to be able to share views on the film, why our children are so disconnected and how we can remedy the situation. We all had similar thoughts and the audience came up with some really interesting ideas. It seemed that we had all come to the conclusion that there is a two generation disconnect from nature and that to ensure children get time outdoors we need to work with the parents. We need to encourage and support adults, build their confidence out in nature and tool them up with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure that their children get the best opportunities for engaging with nature and taking advantage of it’s numerous and wonderful benefits.

After the session, Sarah O’Sullivan from the National Trust gave us all a flyer and a branded conker asking us to make our pledge to Project Wild Thing and release our conkers back into the wild. I have done both, making my pledge sometime before seeing the film and spending some time today, in the true Project Wild Thing spirit, handing my conker to my 20 month old son to release. No surprises when he took it from me and chose to practice his throwing skills, throwing it into the undergrowth in the RSPB South Essex Wildlife Garden. I’m not even sure he took enough notice to even know it was a conker!

If you want to join the movement and make your pledge then sign up to The Wild Network where you will find tons of brilliant outdoor ideas and lots more information about the film - www.projectwildthing.com

You can also visit www.rspb.org.uk/connectionmeasure to read about our Connecting with nature report and to find out just how connected to nature our children really are

Leila Balin - RSPB South Essex Campaigns and Communications Officer

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