You wake with a start, it’s 6.30 am, flushed with energy you catapult out of bed and grab the blanket out of the airing cupboard. There’s still faint snores echoing from your parent’s bedroom, so you fly down the stairs and flick on the TV to sit staring, aimlessly at some ‘comedians’ in big fluffy suits attempting to raise a smile. Eagerly you await the footsteps of either mum or dad coming down the stairs so that you can gobble down some breakfast and get on with the day. You wouldn’t want to miss the best part.
After a rushed breakfast you grab your coat (after mum’s third reminder) and get onto the valiant steed that nobly awaits you patiently every day…. the bike. The day is spent with your best friend exploring labyrinths of roads, playing imaginary games, getting your hands dirty creating mucky mud pies, building dens inside leafy glades amongst an abundance of fungi and wild flowers. Mum would tell you when you had to be home, and you’d stick to it. You would arrive back home having created vivid memories that would embed themselves in your mind for years, fuel for creative imaginings to come.
This is probably the childhood a lot of adults in my generation remember; days spent outside getting mucky, breathing in an abundance of fresh air deep into your lungs, exploring the natural world with wonder. Just to catch a butterfly, plant a flower bed or pot up seeds was a day well spent. I had no idea that I was learning at the time, but I was… and I was learning knowledge that would stay with me far longer than trigonometry. Now I’m not saying that trigonometry isn’t important (depending on your path in life), but I will say that the cross-curricular value of those early years spent in the outdoors was gold dust.
I started working at the St Madoc Centre after having been a Primary School teacher for five years. During my time as a teacher one thing struck me deeply; children are losing touch with nature. Children are all too often spending free time in front of the (now SMART or 3D) TV, with an iPad on their lap, whilst the rest of the family sits on iPhones, either repeatedly refreshing the news feed, or playing repetitive apps. I couldn’t count how many children I met that would regularly tell me about the new game they’ve got for their console, or their favourite TV programmes.
Now, I don’t mean to generalise here...there are many parents that ensure their children experience the natural world, but for many there appear to be barriers. In 2013 the RSPB published a document which stated that only 13% of children in Wales were ‘connected to nature’ and with climate change and species extinction rapidly taking hold, it is essential that we do something to inspire the next generation to take care of the natural world.
It is our hope at the St Madoc Centre that 2019 is another successful year, where we reach out to school children from across Swansea and further a-field. We endeavour to encourage younger generations to enjoy everything that the natural world has to offer, as well as to think about how their actions can impact our environment. As we embrace the year ahead, we look forward to continuing the positive work that we do, as well as adapting our programmes to ensure that children have the best experience with us possible. We welcome your positive thoughts, encouragement and prayers for our up and coming busy season, with the faith that we will carry on doing the good work that was started by Mr Burr many years ago.
I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder’ by Richard Louv (2010). This quote has inspired me since I first read it a number of years ago, and was the initial encouragement that I needed to take my education career outdoors;
Happy New Year! Abbie Education Ranger at the St Madoc Centre