For hundreds of years knowledge and understanding of the Broads and its ecology was passed down from farmers, marshmen and countrymen to their children. Before the arrival of large machines, the Broads were managed by men and women who watched the weather and seasons, studied the wildlife and plants and understood the land they managed. Their children had space to explore and they also understood the environment. Life is very different in the 21st Century. Fewer people are employed in the countryside. It is very rare to see children spending time alone outdoors. Who teaches those children about our wetlands now?
The Landscapes Review (2019) chaired by Julian Glover recognised the transformative effect that engaging with our protected landscapes, including National Parks and AONBs, can have on young people. One of its core recommendations is “A night under the stars in a national landscape for every child” (Proposal 8). More widely, it identifies the need for those managing England’s protected landscapes to do more to engage with people from all sectors of society, putting particular emphasis on forging better links with underrepresented communities.
The report showed that 13% of children (under 16) and 5% of young people (16-24) never visit the natural environment or even spend any leisure time outdoors. The number of children going on school visits to the countryside is shockingly low at just 6-7%. In 2021, Reading University brought people together at a Climate Education Summit, resulting in the National Climate Education Plan to give all young people the understanding they need to respond to climate change.
During the Covid pandemic all schools were closed and there were no educational trips, but we were allowed to take daily walks outside. Generation Green connected thousands of young people with nature through new jobs, training, volunteering, and other outdoor learning experiences. The Broads Authority were able to employ two additional part-time education officers who worked for 16 months with children from diverse backgrounds giving them experience of the Broads environment.
In 2022, the Department for Education published ‘Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy: A strategy for the education and children’s services systems’ to help transition out of the Covid pandemic, face up to climate change, and give children, and young people the knowledge and skills to restore nature and thrive in a green economy.
The Broads Authority (BA) has a full-time education officer working with over 30 schools to deliver Environmental Learning based on the Broads. The work is varied and draws in East London schools, Special Educational Needs Colleges, Great Yarmouth schools, and groups from many backgrounds. They partnered with Anglian Rail Community Partnership to let Great Yarmouth children explore the Wherry Line to explore the.
The BA also works with How Hill, The Horstead Centre, Barton Turf Activity centre and NWT to deliver educational projects. A new Education Strategy for 2023 -28 has just been agree by BA for the next 4 years. Education-Strategy
The Broads Society is always keen to work with others on new and engaging projects. The next in line is World Eel Day on 19th May 2024, when the Broads Society will help BA and Ruthie Collins, who wrote The Last Eel on Earth. World Eel Day! | Ruthie Collins
The Broads is lucky to have many establishments delivering high quality environmental and outdoor education. Barton Turf Adventure Centre, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Broads Authority, How Hill Trust, The Museum of The Broads, Haubois Residential and Activity Centre and Horstead Centre are the main providers but many others run Broads education opportunities. The Broads Environmental and Education Network (BEEN) was set up about 30 years ago to bring together organisations to promote environment education. It now falls under the umbrella of the Broads Authority and details of the many organisations involved can be found here. External education providers (broads-authority.gov.uk)
The Broads Society plays a crucial role in educating the community about Broads issues. They actively engage with the public through stands at shows and exhibitions, provide informative lectures by trustees, and utilize social media and webpages to share valuable insights and knowledge regarding the conservation and preservation of this unique ecosystem.
As we consider the future of the Broads, the role of the Broads Society becomes ever more significant. Its efforts in conservation, advocacy, and community engagement are essential. Joining the Society is not just a way to support their efforts; it's an opportunity to be part of a community that is deeply committed to the stewardship of one of the UK's most precious natural landscapes. Whether you are a local resident, a frequent visitor, or someone who holds the Broads dear, becoming a member of the Broads Society is a meaningful way to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of this unique area.