Education: Passport to a Greener Future

Education: Passport to a Greener Future

Our urban wildlife site, Grow Wilder, is that most special of places. Enhancing and supporting wildlife is part of its DNA, and sustainable food production is also key. But it is about so much more than that, because at the centre of our mission is education. We educate people to care about the environment upon which we depend, and we help them learn how to take action for nature. In short, we’re spreading the word that wildlife isn’t just ‘nice to have’ – it’s essential to our wellbeing, to our communities, to our very existence.

Have a look at the weekly roll call of visitors to Grow Wilder, and you’ll see that, here, education really is for everyone. At one end of the spectrum are the children who come every week to the My Wild Child and Wildlife Watch sessions, but there’s no upper age limit, or ‘typical’ learner.

Take our ten-month Wild Path Placements, for which we are now recruiting. Part of a broader programme run by The Wildlife Trusts, we will be employing two new trainees this year. The idea is to offer people from diverse backgrounds a chance to enter careers in wildlife and conservation, by offering a work-based training plan and a bursary of £1000 per month, to pay for rent, bills, food or whatever they may need whilst they are in training. While they’re with us they’ll learn everything from leading volunteers to wildlife-friendly food growing; from managing the wildflower nursery to media and communications - and even hedge-laying! The deadline is the 6 June, so if you’re interested don’t hesitate to apply. 

Our Grow Leader course offers another exciting route for budding conservationists and food-growers. This highly respected innovative 7-week programme provides excellent training in wildlife-friendly food growing and horticulture, as well as leadership and wellbeing. In other words, it is aiming to provide the leaders we need for our future, as the impacts of the climate and ecological emergencies make themselves felt. Our Grow Leaders have gone on to run environmental consultancies and to work in horticulture, but they’ve also created community projects and become leaders within environmental movements, lobbying those in authority for change. One of our former Grow Leaders said “Every time I came up to Grow Wilder, I felt I grew a little bit. It was amazing to work with experts and learn valuable skills.” This course has paused as a result of the pandemic, but the hope is that it will soon be up and running again.

Among our most regular learners are a group from Burley Inclusive, a North Somerset and Bristol-based support and education service for people with learning disabilities. They come here to learn in an environment that breaks the structures of the classroom, gaining work experience across our site and connecting with both nature and the wider community in a genuinely positive way. One of their support staff described Grow Wilder as a place which gives the learners “a sense of inclusion and purpose that they can’t get anywhere else” – and that’s a message we hear time after time from our visitors.

Perhaps the perfect exemplar of our passion for inclusivity is provided by our Lifelong Learning programme. Our short, practical and accredited courses aim to suit a wide range of interests – and everyone is welcome. Want to learn more about wildlife gardening? Wish you had the knowledge to identify all those wildflowers you’ve spotted by the roadside? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to weave? It’s all going on here – our courses cover everything from field ecology to land management, and from nature-based crafts to outdoor learning.

The bottom line is that education lies at the heart of everything we do. Without it, our work would mean very little. With it, we believe we just might change the world.

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