Keep anything from lockdown? Why would we do that? Surely that kind of sentiment is only for the privileged, those for whom Coronovirus lockdown enables them not to worry about income; paying the mortgage; illness; finding food in understocked and overcrowded supermarkets; working a full day at home while homeschooling kids - instead they are extolling the virtues of having the time and money to stay at home while learning a new language; making sourdough and having time to grow tomatoes in their vast gardens.
On the 50th Anniversary of Earthday - the annual day dedicated to environmental action - there are environmentally positive impacts this time is forcing upon us. Impacts that we should learn from and try to keep hold of afterwards. Less pollution from a worldwide reduction in transport and fewer humans in wild areas are already allowing the skies to clear, pollution to decrease and wild animals to enjoy the freedom of space we deny them. It is also making clear to humans how much we need nature for our own physical and mental health.
The Forest School movement has been responsible for increasing access to outdoor spaces in the UK since it became popular in the early 2000s. I was one of the first directors of the Forest School Association and was there at its formation with the Institite of Outdoor Learning . Accessibility for ordinary teaching staff (or superhero teachers as they currently are) to take children confidently into the outdoors in the rebellious child-led un-education that is Forest School has been one of the reasons why I'm so fascinated with it. We are facilitating the next generation to have a deep personal relationship with the outdoors, one that is not prescribed by an adult. Children and young people cannot value what they do not experience, and long term Forest School programmes, developing relationships with a simple local piece of woodland has shown huge changes in positive views towards the natural world; and emotional and physical wellbeing.
I often work with children and young people from deprived socio-economic backgrounds, and I know how important positive experiences in the outdoors are to them. A lack of public transport to outdoor areas and social housing a long way from public outdoor spaces makes access to the outdoors very difficult. Often they rely on their support workers being able to take them back to the outdoors when they are unable to cope and need a boost to their mental health.
Adult experience with this time of coronovirus lockdown is similarly allowing us to re-evaluate what we most value right in our neighborhoods - the simple green spaces around us. News reports of people desperate to get outside and spend time in nature is showing us that whatever background we are from, we want to fight for a positive relationship with the environment. We need the natural environment. And that is the goal of Earth Day.
5 things we should keep from this year #earthday2020
Vicki Stewart is the Director of Brightwood Training Limited. She is an ex-RAF Training Officer with a Masters Degree in Development Training in the Outdoors. Experienced team building trainer, Forest School Level 4 Trainer and Approved Forest School Therapeutic Practitioner she writes and teaches nature connection and people development , reviews for academic journals and leads training in outdoor learning and programmes for Universities, companies, mainstream and alternative education.