Con­nect­ing with the out­side world

In the midst of a glob­al pan­dem­ic, all of us are doing our bit to help pre­vent the spread of Covid-19. We are stay­ing at home, main­tain­ing safe dis­tances from peo­ple, cur­tail­ing all our nor­mal ways of con­nect­ing with our fam­i­lies, neigh­bours and our com­mu­ni­ties – all the links that help define us as peo­ple. Yet, iron­i­cal­ly, we look out of our win­dows on a world teem­ing with life. Spring has made our world alive, fresh, vibrant and buzzing with new life. And hope.

In the midst of a global pandemic, all of us are doing our bit to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. We are staying at home, maintaining safe distances from people, curtailing all our normal ways of connecting with our families, neighbours and our communities – all the links that help define us as people. Yet, ironically, we look out of our windows on a world teeming with life. Spring has made our world alive, fresh, vibrant and buzzing with new life. And hope.

New rhythms and routines

Our children are facing uncertainties, changes in routine away from friends, support networks and the usual rhythms that provide security and reassurance. Parents are home schooling, and many will be experiencing the direct effects of these difficult times, away from their own extended family networks due to self-isolation; some may have experienced illness and even the loss of the loved ones in their own families.

Turning to nature

It is often at times of change and uncertainty that we turn to the natural world around us – and often that first link is with the food we eat and where it has come from. The many physical and mental benefits to children of being outdoors and more connected with how their food is produced, are well documented – many studies show the positive links between direct experiences in nature and children’s mental, emotional and physical health and well-being. The studies show that regular direct access to nature can increase self-esteem and resilience against stress and adversity; improve concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, flexibility and self-awareness and prevent childhood obesity.

Environmental empowerment

Added to this, we know that early contact with nature plays an important role in developing pro-environmental values and behaviours. Many children are aware of the global threats to the environment, but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature is fading along with connections to how their food has been produced. Our own work with teenagers revealed that despite young people feeling disconnected with nature and food production, many are interested in how their food is produced and hold strong views around the environmental impacts of farming and indeed, the career opportunities available in the farming and land-based sector.

Keeping connections alive

Now more than ever, we need to keep these vital connections alive. Since it was first launched in 2015, Countryside Classroom has been the on-line ‘go-to’ portal for teaching resources across all age ranges. A single destination where teachers (and now parents) can find and access the resources, places to visit and people to ask that will support their teaching about food, farming and the natural environment.

Whether it is growing seeds on a windowsill, watching birds, cooking together, making a ‘journey stick’ or keeping a carrot diary – these simple activities can engage, absorb, inspire and motivate. They have the power to reconnect children with the outside world, but I think its even deeper in some way. The primary thing I think children and their parents get from deeper connections with the outside world – in some strange way – is not feeling as alone.