From The Guardian newspaper
Veteran presenter says nature classes should be on a par with maths and English for children ‘estranged’ from the natural world
Classes on the environment are just as important as lessons in maths and English for today’s children, veteran natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough has told the Guardian.
Attenborough, the voice of television natural history programmes for more than 50 years, said most children now grew up with “very little” direct contact with the natural world and were “estranged” from non-human forms of life.
The 84-year-old naturalist said learning about nature should be “on a par” with lessons in maths and English in schools. “As our children’s world is changing, our planet is also in increasing peril,” Attenborough said.
“Climate change and habitat destruction are problems facing our generation and those of our children. In order to equip the next generation to face these problems, it is crucial that children grow up with an understanding and respect for our planet. Human beings depend on the natural world for everything. We are going to have to make increasing demands on people to care for the natural world.”
He said teachers had “enormous power” to influence the thoughts and actions of their pupils. “Bringing nature into the classroom can kindle a fascination and passion for the diversity of life on earth and can motivate a sense of responsibility to safeguard it.”
Many children used to get to know the natural world in the countryside, but now many learn about nature at school, he said. “School grounds are absolutely invaluable if they can be used to give children things like ponds, places where children can grow their own plants and see animals.” But, he said, unfortunately some urban schools had playgrounds that were just tarmac.
Attenborough yesterday told teachers how the national curriculum could be used to inspire children to learn with nature. He was speaking at the Association for Science Education Conference, held at Reading University, where he launched an encyclopaedia about life on land to be used in schools and universities.
Alexander Report highly critical of education as it stands
A ‘play-based’ approach, both in and outside of the classroom and natural areas of the schoolgrounds, is beneficial for children that have these opportunities. I have seen this with my own eyes. We should also be starting formal education much later – aged 5 or 6!
Education made the front pages this week, with the 4-year report by Prof Robin Alexander, of Cambridge University on the state of education giving the Government a ‘poor’ in many areas…
The Government response, in a nutshell was: ‘we’ve had the Rose Review’ (sponsored by Government) which says we need to focus on ICT, Numeracy and Literacy … and science and the environment will happen by absorption! Note that the Government DOES NOT have to implement the Cambridge Review!
Some key points of Cambridge Report:
* ‘Primary education should amount to much more than basic literacy and
My view: I agree! Children need a balanced curriculum including learning about the world about them – about, in and for the environment. Children can then use their environment – natural and built – using a source of inspiration for their writing and numeracy! This is also the view of the National Association for Environmental Education.
* Alexander praised the role of existing classroom “generalists” who are expected to teach all subjects. But it said there were concerns that some failed to provide the “expertise which a modern primary education requires”.
My view: Science is a key area in which schools that have a single or specialist teacher that undertakes this subject – as part of teachers ‘PPA’ time – children are better engaged in this area and the subject is often better resourced. I taught Science and Design and Technology and consider my specific focus on this subject and better collection of resources, than class teachers would easily be able to assemble, were an advantage.
* Children responded better to a “play-based” curriculum at a young age and insisted it would not hold them back in later life. Dame Gillian Pugh, the review’s chairman, said:
“If you introduce a child too formal a curriculum before they are ready for it then you are not taking into account where children are in terms of their learning and their capacity to develop. There is no research evidence that shows that early access to formal learning does children any good and quite a lot of good evidence to show that it actually can do some harm,” she said. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/6338700/Primary-review-start-formal-lessons-at-six.html
My view: Play-based approach using the resources both in and outside of the classroom/in the playground and natural areas of the schoolgrounds/local parks, has proved highly beneficial for children that have these opportunities. School grounds and Forest schools movements, and more specialist approaches such as Steiner and Montessori, are proof of children learning being effective here. My short time as a Nursery teacher and cover teaching at Foundation Stage verifies this.
Some useful links: