Why and how it works
This strategy is strongly related to working with people’s values. Giving people a strong personal and emotional experience in which they get to discover the beauty, power and vulnerability of nature makes it more relevant and important for people to care about protecting it, and harder to ignore. Being in a natural environment also provides a perfect opportunity to teach people about sustainability in a way that can be understood. Involving people in activities that protect and improve the environment in a concrete and visible way can increase the impact further. This active involvement is one of the key elements of the example described on the next page.
This strategy requires quite a lot of time and effort on a regular basis. It is an overall problem in the modern urbanized life that people, particularly the young, spend less and less time experiencing and learning about nature. Furthermore it requires engagement and professional educators who can make sure the experience is strong enough to have an impact on the individuals participating.
Recommendations for implementation
Schools have an important role and opportunity to give children positive experiences from natural environments that are combined with learning in an inspirational and creative way. Schools can also team up with organizations that have something concrete and memorable to offer children. At a community level, engaging people in activities such as urban farming, guerrilla gardening and cleaning the beaches from rubbish is a good way to attract people’s attention and reach out with a broader message of sustainability.
Example: Environmental learning at the Outward Bound Trust
The Outward Bound Trust is a UK-based educational charity that focuses on young people’s personal development by enabling them to experience adventures in a natural environment. A key element of all their courses is to learn about sustainability. In order to do so they have teamed up with the John Muir Trust to work with their environmental award scheme in which participants need to meet four challenges; to discover, explore, conserve and share their experiences of a wild place.
During 2013 the Outward Bound Trust recorded and evaluated how the John Muir Award contributed to the delivery of environmental education of their courses. In addition they summarized research that has been conducted across a range of their courses in order to evaluate the longterm impact that they have on young people’s attitudes and behaviour in regard to the environment. Specific evidence was drawn from two five-day courses that were delivered in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 respectively. Both had a specific focus on raising awareness about sustainability. After the course in 2011/2012, 182 participants were asked what they thought they would do differently in their day to day life at school or at home because of what they had learned about climate change and the environment. The course delivered in 2010/2011 was followed up with a survey that was completed by 69 participants 3 to 10 months after they had attended the course.
Around 13 per cent of the young people who were involved with the Outward Bound Trust received the John Muir Award during 2013. The evaluation from the five-day course from 2011/2012 showed that 86 per cent of the young people identified at least one way in which they intended to live their lives in a more environmentally conscious and responsible way after the course. In the follow-up survey of the 2010/2011 course 90 per cent of the respondents indicated that they use public transport more commonly and turn off electrical appliances more often and 38 per cent said that they or their families had changed their consumption pattern for the better in one way or another.