Building a lifelong connection to nature

Over the last three and a half years we have run a lottery funded project to break down the barriers that families and young people face in accessing our Family Explorer Club and Young Ranger volunteer groups.

Our target areas were Teesside, Whitby, Scarborough and Colburn. July saw the culmination of everyone’s hard work in two celebration events.

Explorer Club families gathered at Danby Lodge National Park Centre for a day of fun, games and reflection. As the sun shone, and the rain held off, everyone enjoyed a spot of animal Olympics, willow heart making, animal yoga and wildlife geocaching. The final cohort of families graduated with their Discovery John Muir Awards which recognise their having given 25 hours of volunteering to help conserve and enhance this special place. Tasks which families have undertaken include clearing ancient stone trods, bracken bashing around scheduled ancient monuments, footpath clearance, tree planting and hedgerow maintenance. Hand in hand with these tasks the families take part in environmental exploration of the National Park’s many special qualities, connecting with nature in a multi-sensory way.

Animal yoga at Danby LodgeExplorer graduation

The third and final cohort of Young Rangers also graduated with their John Muir Discovery Awards. Again, this followed a wide variety of conservation and skills activities including bracken bashing, boardwalk maintenance, meadow and tree management and bird box making. Skills included a wide variety of ID sessions, first aid and water safety, star gazing, fossil hunting and green wood working, making their own walking sticks. The funding enabled us to bring all three cohorts of Young Rangers together for a final digital detox celebratory residential at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel in July. The residential focussed on wellbeing and reflection of all that the young people had achieved over the three and a half years. Despite the horrendous weather they all enjoyed a canoe down the river Esk, with one Young Ranger even managing to accidentally catch a fish in his canoe!

Working on the eyeGroup canoeing

We know, anecdotally, that both schemes have a lot of positive impact on the participants. However, we better understand and can evidence this from the end of project Social Return on Investment evaluation. The evaluation asks participants what has changed for them through being involved in volunteering and how much they value it and how long they think the impacts will last for. The overarching themes are that participants have significantly increased their environmental awareness and responsibility and they have improved their mental health. Young people are more resilient, and families are stronger. When this impact is extended to households who have barriers to accessing activities like these, the value is increased.  The social return on investment shows that for every £1 invested in the programmes there is £6 worth of social value created.

For those of you who like facts and figures some other outputs are;
  • 51 families engaged through Explorer Club contributing 3,291 volunteer hours.
  • 49 practical tasks completed and 51 explore and discover sessions undertaken.
  • 178 young people engaged through Young Rangers contributing 4,782 volunteer hours.
  • 32 practical tasks completed, and 46 skills sessions undertaken.
  • Over both schemes 142 John Muir Discovery Awards achieved and six Explorer Awards.

All of this wouldn’t have happened without the amazing support of our dedicated adult volunteers, all 26 of them who contributed a fantastic 1,141 hours of volunteering.

We are really happy to say that through additional external funding; through the BMW recharge in Nature Project, the Ganton Educational Trust and Forest Holidays all of those participants who want to carry on with the programmes can.

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