Today’s blog is by Sheila Gundry, the Development Manager at Froglife and an NAEE Fellow. As ever, the views expressed are Sheila’s, and are not necessarily shared by NAEE.
My work involves developing and managing environmental education programmes, particularly with the more disadvantaged groups in our communities, so how can this continue given the Covid-19 situation? Hands-on activities are vital to a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and building new social contacts and networks is built into our education programmes. How does this work when socially distanced?
Fortunately there are some silver linings. We are safer outside, so for the traditional motto of environmental education ‘in, about and for the environment’, the ‘in’ part is now much easier. People who previously would say ‘but it might rain’ are now looking for creative ways of running activities, and at Froglife (www.froglife.org) even in the school holidays we are getting more enquiries from teachers keen to develop their outdoor classrooms.
During lockdown we have had no choice but to spend more time in our local green spaces, and for many this has been a revelation. I thought I knew my local woods, but going there every day in early lockdown was such a joy: seeing the daily changes as wood anemones, bluebells and wild garlic came and went, and later on finding the Bath asparagus for the first time in those woods and discovering where the marbled white and gatekeeper butterflies love best. Every child and teacher who has discovered more, and appreciated more, in their local green spaces, will be returning to school with renewed enthusiasm for environmental education, so what an opportunity to develop these new enthusiasms, to learn more and take action more.
In lockdown, many people who were a bit dubious about video-conferencing are now a dab hand at Zoom/Teams/Skype. This means that we are engaging new audiences: people who would not normally take part in a webinar are doing so now, and then taking action in other ways. At Froglife we have had dozens of people sharing their newly dug ponds on social media – what a fantastic way for families or housemates to undertake an entertaining project together, to learn more about pond life and to inspire others.
However, we need to fund our work too. At Froglife our funders have been very understanding and several current funders have provided emergency funding which has been very much appreciated. Then I looked at a list of 45 potential new funders providing emergency funding and none of them were applicable to us. Why are they not funding our sector? There were hardly any in any sustainability field. Running environmental education programmes in the ‘new normal’ world is progressing well but if we are truly going to #buildbackbetter, we need a strong charity sector, and that needs consistent support.
A real strength that has been apparent throughout the recent upheavals is that we are immensely adaptable and capable of far reaching changes to our work and home lives, which gives us more confidence that it is within our reach make the substantial changes that are needed for a more sustainable future.
Sheila can be contacted at: Sheila.email@example.com