Nature. What’s the point?

“Living in a city, especially one as big and as busy as London, makes it easy for us to lose a connection with nature. We’re exposed more to a jungle of concrete, rather than a jungle of trees, and you could be forgiven for thinking that there simply isn’t any nature in London.

I’m Finn, a 16-year-old who is a part of the youth programme at Surrey Docks Farm. Every time I visit the Farm, I get to experience the nature that surrounds us daily- it’s always there, as long as you know where to look.

I wanted to share the nature that surrounds us, so together with London Youth, the London Wildlife Trust, and a little helping hand from the Farm, I’ve put together “Nature. What’s the point?” It’s a completely free event, aimed at young people like myself (but open to all ages) with the aim of showing you how much nature truly surrounds you, and why you should care.”

Finn, one of our Greenagers, designed and led this fantastic event, with the help of his peers, youth workers and funders. Visitors had a fantastic time getting involved making insect hotels, tasting foraged teas, learning how to help bees, and planting seeds! His hard work and dedication were recognised through the Jack Petchey Environmental Award.

Read Finn’s blog which highlights what he enjoyed and learnt from this experience:

“As a Young Person living close to the centre of London, it makes perfect sense to me for people to often ask the question: ‘Nature. What’s the Point?’ Our daily lives are spent in a forest of concrete and glass, not a forest of trees, and we often find ourselves ‘too busy’ to pursue the great outdoors. However, I wanted to change this narrative. My name’s Finn, and I’m a Young Person who has a passion for the nature around us. I constantly get the privilege of being connected to our living environment at my youth club at Surrey Docks Farm, so wished to share why nature is something worth exploring, celebrating and cherishing, and why it matters to you.

I thought the best way to do this was by delivering a day long nature awareness day for the local community at Surrey Docks Farm. After securing funding from London Youth and the London Wildlife Trust, I held this in July, and it consisted of: foraging; seed sowing; wildlife identification; herbal teas; pollinator identification and much more. Across the event space were stalls that combined information with activities, promoting an engaging and hands on method of teaching. Some of my favourites included seed sowing, in which we made sustainable pots out of newspaper, filled them with compost made at the Farm (a process I taught the visitors about) and planted herbs and other crops that could easily be grown on a windowsill or small balcony, meaning that people with limited outdoor space, owing to living in a crowded city, could still form a connection with nature. One of the most popular stalls showed people the benefits of some of the plants that they perhaps often see, yet think nothing of them. For example, we harvested nettles to make tea – everyone loved the opportunity to taste something they might not have tried before, whilst learning about the amazing health benefits it may bring. Did you know, stinging nettles don’t just sting, they’ve been thought to reduce stress and treat sore muscles! Other activities included making your own insect hotel with readily available materials – like bamboo canes, sticks and string – and decorating packets of wildflower seeds which grow into flowers that are brilliant for bees.

Over the course of the day, I really enjoyed being able to engage with people who visited. It was challenging to alter each activity to make it suited for all demographics, but overall, young children, teenagers and adults all seemed to enjoy it just as much as one another. It was really rewarding to see a finished product, seeing it advertised across social media outlets, and collaborating with other young people at the Farm to ensure the day ran smoothly.

However, the bit that the visitors didn’t see was the amount of planning that went into it. This felt like the most valuable part to me, I have learnt so many skills and methods of approaching challenges when designing events akin to this, whether that’s securing funding from partners, the importance of keeping to self-imposed deadlines, and how to generate ideas (without putting too many eggs in way too many baskets!) A key aspect I had learnt is that sometimes, keeping information, branding, activities and delivery simple and clear can be the most effective method. It’s easy to get carried away with chucking as much information as possible onto a page, or trying to get the most complex, high-budget activity possible, but often, simply inviting people to drink some nettle tea, and planting seeds, helps you reach the exact end goal that you intended – at least in my case it did.

I feel very grateful for all of those who helped the event be a resounding success: everyone at the Farm, including Youth Workers and volunteers for helping guide the direction of the day and other Young People for helping out at the stalls; London Youth and the London Wildlife Trust for offering support and funding; the Jack Petchey Foundation, for acknowledging the event, and providing a platform to share the story. It all acts as testament for how much success is so dependent on collaboration with others.”

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