The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr Mike Clarke Headshot

Are Children Disconnected From Nature?

Posted: Updated:

I was lucky as a child to have access to the woods and marshes of Shorne and Cobham in Kent. It was there that I discovered the amazing diversity of life on the edge of my town. I couldn't have known then that those experiences would stay with me, and spark a commitment to saving nature that has been with me ever since.

How many children growing up today will be able to share such memories? How many are at the foot of a tree right now, gathering conkers and changing their relationship with nature forever. The truth is, not as many as there ought to be.

Today's generation of children are less active and have less contact with the natural world and wildlife than ever before, with serious consequences.

There's overwhelming evidence to show that children are more active, more stimulated and more receptive to learning when they're outdoors. Out in nature children are less stressed, more sociable and their sense of self-worth improves, yet many are not feeling these benefits.

Nature stands to suffer too. After all, why should children realise the value of nature, or feel a sense of responsibility to protect it if they are not encouraged to enjoy it when they're young?

Despite the seriousness of the problem there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure it - until now. The RSPB has developed a brand new approach working with leading academics at the University of Essex to measure how connected our children are to nature.

We'll be using it with 8 to 12-year-olds to create a baseline of connection to nature among UK children. It means that, for the first time ever, we'll know the scale of the problem and will be able to track it over years to come. We're urging the Coalition Government to adopt it as their official indicator for whether their efforts to improve connection to nature are having an impact.

We'll be able to reveal the baseline in spring. In the meantime, you can check your own family's level of connection to nature at www.rspb.org.uk/getoutdoors and get some creative ideas for connecting.