Breaking down barriers to help children from Barrow get outdoors
We have recently been successful in securing one of ten highly competitive grants from the Ernest Cook Trust which will fund a new Outdoor Learning Officer.
Sarah McNeill, a qualified teacher and outdoor educator, will be working with children, young people and their families in West Cumbria, starting with pupils at Sacred Heart School in Barrow-in-Furness. Her new role will be to engage young people in fun, exploratory and inspiring nature-based experiences that bring young people closer to nature, benefitting their health, wellbeing and happiness.
She will also be helping to remove the social and financial barriers – such as lack of access – that so often prevent young people from strengthening their connection to nature.
Future proofing nature lovers
Having grown up in Glasgow and taught under the Scottish curriculum, Sarah has first-hand experience of the benefits of this approach:
I have witnessed the positive impact learning outdoors has on children; including increased resilience, independence, curiosity and improved social skills.
I believe it is important for all people to have access to nature, whether that is through nurturing a potted plant on a window ledge or exploring a local woodland.
During this period of global environmental change, we want to help young people inspire a love for their local places, strengthen their relationship with nature and empower a sense of care for the natural worldSarah McNeill - Brathay's Outdoor Learning Officer
Part of something bigger
Our Outdoor Learning Officer is also part of a wider cohort of similar appointments across the country. They will be sharing knowledge and experience of how to encourage access and champion sustainability within the outdoors. Recent research has reaffirmed what we have known for some time: outdoor education is crucial for the development of young people.
Sarah will also grow the charity’s commitment to environmental sustainability whilst supporting local communities in Cumbria to thrive.
Suzie Paton, The Ernest Cook Trust’s Head of Grants, said organisations receiving the grant had demonstrated their commitment to helping young people get outdoors to become better connected with nature.
We know that inspirational role models are key to helping young people form lasting connections with the natural environment. This is why we prioritise charities and organisations whose approach is to encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors and engage with nature.Suzie Paton, The Ernest Cook Trust’s Head of Grants
Over the next three years, the project is open to around 1,860 young people and their families from Barrow-in-Furness, connecting them to the outdoors.
Through an existing partnership between Brathay and Lancaster Universities Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (ECO-I) this project will contribute to a 3-year research project exploring how outdoor learning, and improved connection to nature, is valued and evaluated by young people and policy makers, in turn leading to system changes to embed environment and sustainability in outdoor education practice.