School students connect with nature by mapping habitats

The National Education Nature Park and Climate Action Awards are empowering young people to make a positive difference to (their own) nature’s future.

Student looking at a spider web

As a start to their own Nature Park journey, students at the Reading (Secondary) School in Berkshire have been planning, leading and carrying out their habitat mapping activities. Using flow charts, students understand and map the habitats on their sites and are thereby empowered to make the best changes for both nature and the school community. At the Reading School, they took an approach which allowed students to take on as much responsibility as possible, emphasising a sense of independent exploration and agency, and developing their green, digital, and scientific skills.

“We hope to continue to monitor the biodiversity of the school site and increase this over time. We hope that being part of the Nature Park will help to give us a framework to support students to increase the natural health of the school and provide additional opportunities for students”, explained Kees Luteijn, Sustainability Lead at Reading School.

Through the National Education Nature Park and Climate Action Awards initiative young people connect with nature as they investigate and record what’s living and growing around them. By means of their work, they can plan and take action to boost biodiversity, through improvements such as building rain gardens, growing pollinator-friendly plants, installing bird boxes and more.

Schools taking part in the programme become part of a vast network of spaces across England which together form the National Education Nature Park. According to the programme, the land from schools in England forms an area the equivalent to roughly twice the size of Birmingham, hence representing huge potential to collectively contribute to nature recovery across the country.

Launched in 2023, the programme is led by the Natural History Museum, along with the Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Society, supported by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Manchester Metropolitan University, Learning Through Landscapes, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the National Biodiversity Network Trust. Esri UK, the geospatial technology partner in the programme, is providing the digital mapping platform and expertise in biodiversity mapping.

Clare Matterson, Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “With the world facing multiple crises, from the climate emergency to biodiversity loss, gardening can be integral to addressing them. Through gardening and development of practical and digital skills, we want to empower children and young people to make their nurseries, schools and colleges better places for people, wildlife and the planet. Saving the world starts at our fingertips.”

Embedding nature across everyday teaching and learning will give every child and young person in England the opportunity to develop a meaningful connection to nature, contribute to nature recovery across the country and build resilience for a changing world. Interested schools, colleges and nurseries can register to join the National Education Nature Park initiative.