Prince’s Trust – “Get Started in Conservation” Course

Prince’s Trust – “Get Started in Conservation” Course

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the learning work at Avon Wildlife Trust has had to adjust its ways of working to keep engaging young people with nature whilst on lockdown or whilst schools were closed.

This February, the Our Bright Future teamed up with the Princes Trust teamed up to deliver an online course all about getting started in conservation. The Prince’s Trust is a nationwide charity that works with young people aged 11-30 and helps them find courses and tools to gain confidence and start on their careers.  The Get started in Conservation course was designed to help young people learn more about the sector, conservation issues, local wildlife, learn how to get involved with the trust, take action for nature and get started on their careers in conservation.

Engaging people with nature during a nationwide lockdown is difficult and , although the course would be delivered virtually, we wanted to ensure there would still be opportunity to get out and enjoy the wildlife on our doorstep.

Lockdown for many of us has been on opportunity to rediscover nature and the crucial benefits it can have in our lives. Those of us with access to a garden or a local green space have realised the privilege of this easy access to nature and the benefits it can have to both our physical and our mental health. Recent research from the Prince’s Trust has shown that half of young people’s mental health has worsened since the pandemic and 1 in 4 are feeling unable to cope. With time outdoors in nature being known to lower stress, anxiety and improve wellbeing, there has never been a more important time to ensure young people are able to connect to nature.

The week before the course started, the young people attended a taster day to get a feel of the course, ask any questions, meet the staff and each other and to ensure that the course would be for them. The structure of the taster day and the rest of the course involved a morning of talks and discussion followed by an activity to be carried out outside over lunch time before coming back together in the afternoon to discuss how we found the activity. During the taster day we got to know each other , played some games, learnt what the course would involve and went out to our local green space.

When the course started the week after the taster day, we covered a huge range of different topics. We learnt more about the ecological emergency and the worrying loss of biodiversity across the planet, the importance of using nature to improve our wellbeing, how to identify and survey local birds and mammals, how to look for and find conservation jobs and carry out phase 1 habitat surveys in our local green space. In the mornings, we met and learnt about the topic of the day before taking a long lunch break where the young people were encouraged to go out and explore their local green space and carry out a task. The afternoons were filled with discussions about what we found over lunch and how we got on. On the final day of the course, the young people learnt about the importance of campaigning and they worked in groups to design their own behaviour change campaigns. We had some amazing campaign ideas involving plastics, growing wildflowers and litter picking!  In the afternoon there was a celebration event attended by other staff members from the Prince’s Trust and the students presented their campaign ideas. After all their amazing presentations, the students were all handed certificates for completing the course. Hopefully when lockdown restrictions begin to ease we can take all the students out for a day and do some conservation work face to face!

After a lot of online delivery since the start of the pandemic, this was the first time we had done a series of online sessions meeting a group online and getting to know them over the course of the week. It was a really engaging and fun week and it was great to interact with inspiring young people! We received some really great feedback from the young people and the staff from Prince’s Trust and plan to run another week in the not so distant future!

Madeline said ““I have absolutely loved it I think it has been brilliant. I don't know how it could be improved!”. Lily also loved the course, saying ““I would 100% recommend this course for anyone who wants to work in conservation but doesn't know the first steps to take”. There was also really good feedback about the day focusing on using nature to improve our mental health. Sophia said she loved the whole course and noticed a “vast improvement in my mental health this week!”. Madga agreed saying she loved “being surrounded by like minded people” and “I  gained more appreciation for nature and how much good it does to my mental health.”

With the great feedback across the board, we hope to run the course again with a face to face day incorporated in if lockdown restrictions allow and hopefully continue a course like this when the Our Bright Future project comes to an end!