Inspiring young people
We help young people to understand and love the Chilterns, giving them the tools they need to face coming challenges.
The challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss threaten the security of future generations. But we want to give our young people the tools they need to face these, and other, challenges – protecting our landscape for years to come. To do this, they must first understand the landscape, enjoy it and, ultimately, love it. So, we work hard to inspire and engage children and young adults in the world around them and in the special qualities of the Chilterns.
Working with schools
Conservation education is important to help children not only understand the world, but develop critical thinking to tackle the complexities of the ecological problems they may eventually face. Evidence suggests that placing conservation themes central in formal curriculums increases pupil’s engagement and leads to positive behaviour change.
Conservation education is not just about learning facts in a classroom. It is about exposing children to the natural and historical world around them, enthusing them and creating connections with wildlife and people. Outdoor learning is essential to give children first-hand experiences of their environment. In turn, they are likely to want to take care of it.
The government is committed to the education sector playing its role in responding to climate change and inspiring action. Not only that, but its pledge to achieve Net Zero by 2030 will drive jobs in the green sector, providing opportunities for people of all ages to train, retrain or upskill into new careers.
Teaching and learning need to reflect these challenges and opportunities. The Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB) helps by providing high-quality educational programmes, resources, tools and guides on the different aspects of the Chilterns’ landscape, including wildlife, geography, history and heritage. Much of our work with schools is delivered though our flagship projects.
Learning about precious chalk streams
The Chilterns Chalk Streams Project has a successful and growing education programme. Our “Trout in the Classroom” activity is our longest running schools’ programme. It provides schools with aquariums and brown trout eggs or newly hatched fish. The children are encouraged to look after the fish for a whole term before releasing them into their local chalk stream. Ten schools took part in 2022, and feedback from teachers shows that taking part has “truly sparked an enthusiasm for our local environment amongst the children.” We also run classroom-based workshops, school trips and monitoring programmes for a wide range of ages.
Understanding heritage in the Chilterns landscape
Understanding the Central Chilterns is a local history project for Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers, developed in partnership with Wycombe and Amersham museums. Schools can borrow museum boxes and have hands-on or virtual sessions with a member of museum staff. Children learn to investigate and enquire about real and replica artefacts, and ask museum staff questions, tying in with the curriculum’s focus on chronology and history. Schools can also access a one-and-a-half-hour teacher training session, helping teachers with the teaching of local studies, and how to identify topics relevant to the history and geography of their local area. The session covers themes chronologically across the Stone Age, Iron Age, Saxons, Romans, Medieval Period, Victorians and both World Wars. You can also have sessions tailored to understanding the landscapes and geography of the Chilterns.
Working with research and higher education institutes
Higher education and research institutes have a huge role to play in helping us to understand our natural and historic environments, and tackle the challenges they face. They offer opportunities for innovative and exciting projects, and provide important data that can be used across the environmental sector to inform policy and decision-making, funding, and on-the-ground practical work. The CCB are working closely with several institutes to gather data on conservation issues to inform our decision-making and actions.
Citizen science is the involvement of the public in scientific research – from community-driven surveys to global investigations. It is an incredibly vital way of getting data together and finding out information about current issues. It relies on an army of volunteers of all ages and abilities. We provide training, skills and opportunities through our citizen science and volunteering programmes, bringing local people together to help survey local wildlife and heritage assets. This data is processed by researchers to provide an insight into how things are now, how interventions like practical conservation works are helping, and what we can do better in the future and in light of potential threats.
Citizen scientists help the Chess Smarter Water Catchment project
Citizen scientists are being trained to complete Modular River Surveys (MoRPH) on the River Chess – a rare chalk stream – as part of the Chess Smarter Water Catchment project. Habitat assessments using this method have already been completed at one planned restoration site around Restore Hope Latimer, and other assessments are underway at a newly fenced section of the Chess. In both cases, these assessments provide baseline data allowing us to evaluate the impact of our interventions.
Citizen scientists are also collecting monthly water samples along the Chess following training in recording contaminants. This involves taking a sample of river water from different locations along the Chess and sending them to Imperial College, London, to be analysed. This information will be vital in understanding the concentration of certain chemicals and any potential risk they pose to wildlife.
Working with young people outside formal education settings
Conservation education is not just about formal settings like school and college. We need to inspire young people across all ages, all backgrounds and all settings. We promote places to visit in the Chilterns to see and learn about our wildlife and heritage, we support experiences like bushcraft workshops and cycling tours to help people learn new skills and practise new things, and we work with local communities to involve different people in our flagship projects and volunteering opportunities.
Setting off on a conservation career
The Chalk Cherries & Chairs scheme runs several projects to engage young people and schools with aspects of the Chilterns. New Shoots is a year-long wildlife and conservation programme for 15- to 20-year-olds, designed by and for young people. Run by the Chiltern Rangers, each New Shoots group takes part in a set of monthly sessions over the year. These sessions include visiting the best nature reserves in the Chiltern Hills, getting up close and personal with amazing wildlife, learning directly from experts, and getting stuck in with practical conservation work. New Shoots gives young people a fantastic insight into wildlife and habitat management and provides a stepping-stone for those keen on a career in conservation.