"Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health".
Many studies show the positive links between being in nature and children's mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing.
The studies show that regular direct access to nature can increase self-esteem and resilience against stress and adversity, improve concentration, learning, creativity, cooperation and self-awareness.
Schools have long recognised the benefits of outdoor activities on learning and try to incorporate nature into the curriculum.
An afternoon spent exploring the local stream can meet science, maths, english and arts requirements, and it tends to go down well with the kids as opposed to spending a sunny afternoon in the classroom.
Research has also shown that positive experiences in nature as a child results in the development of responsible environmental behaviour as an adult. So it makes sense to support conservation education in some capacity.
Marlborough has many community conservation groups who focus on a wide range of habitat, species and restoration actions.
In addition to their restoration objectives, many of these volunteer groups are keen to offer their time and skills to foster an appreciation for nature in children. The Department of Conservation recognises the expertise that these groups have and believe that they offer a unique conservation experience for schools.
They provide additional capacity in conservation education, an opportunity for children to be involved in hands-on conservation and they demonstrate to children that everyone can play a successful part in conservation in their own communities.
To support conservation education, DOC initiated the "Marlborough Conservation Educators Forum". This forum is an opportunity for educators within community groups, DOC and the council to upskill, network and improve the resources and services we provide to schools.
The forum has been running for a year, and as a result from last year's actions, a 'Conservation Education Toolbox' was produced to provide teachers with a one-stop shop of opportunities. Actions from this year's forum include providing in-field mentoring opportunities to each other and attending an upcoming workshop for teachers.
Our young people are the next generation of advocates and community leaders, so it is essential that we install a sense of wonder and empathy for nature in our children.
By collaborating we can enable Marlborough's conservation education to be more proactive, more focused, more encompassing and more effective.