On Thursday 28th March 2019, Surrey Wildlife Trust hosted its first Environmental Youth Summit to get young people together with celebrity wildlife presenters to inspire them to find their voice and talk about why the natural environment matters to them. Helping all generations to get involved and take action for a Wilder Future is key to the Trust’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
More than fifty A-level students with an interest in the natural world from schools and colleges across the county attended the Environmental Youth Summit at the pioneering Surrey Wildlife Trust education reserve, Nower Wood near Leatherhead. The atmosphere was one of excitement, fun and creativity, as they chatted about their thoughts, ideas and passion for the environment.
TV wildlife presenter, Nick Baker, shared incredible and hilarious up close and personal facts about water boatmen and mayfly nymphs following the pond dipping sessions, as he took them under the hi-tech video microscope. Social media influencer, Sophie Pavelle, encouraged students to have fun and get out their phones to engage others with silly science and adventures in nature on social media.
Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust said: ‘When I was their age there was no real forum to express why the natural world mattered to me. So we want to make it happen for them, give them access to people who listen, help them create social networks with like-minded people, give them the tools they need and opportunity to express themselves in creating the future they want.’
Sophie Pavelle said: ‘It’s refreshing to go to an event that so eagerly listens to the voices of young people. Every single person I spoke to has a desire to be a change maker, whether in science, policy or through creative stuff. It’s a really exciting time to be talking about the environment. It would be amazing if this could be a template for all Wildlife Trusts across the country.’
The day included talks about the Environment Bill and new laws protecting our natural world, lobbying MPs, environmental campaigning, science and nature communications, new approaches to wildlife recovery and the science behind protecting and restoring our natural world. Students got involved in a bioblitz to record and identify species such as a wood mouse, common newt, cased caddis fly and other creatures from the pond.
Bethan from Esher College did not think it would be possible to have a career in the environment but after attending the Youth Summit she changed her mind: ‘Coming here has made me realise just how much I love it and I’ve discovered there’s lots of different routes into a career in the environment, like volunteering for Surrey Wildlife Trust, working in conservation, studying biology or finding out more by going to events like this.’
Maya from Croydon High School has been thinking about her impact on the environment where she lives: ‘What was missing for me was that hands-on experience. I wanted physical contact with nature, so I could interact with wildlife in a positive way. Holding a newt was great. The talks and workshops were very good too. I’m just so excited. It’s hard to find this info out just by researching online. And now personally I feel inspired to make positive change and raise awareness.’
The students agreed on six pledges for wildlife for schools and colleges in Surrey to take on board including: starting an environment club, increasing participation in environmental issues, reducing single use plastic and waste in schools, growing their own food, contacting MPs and politicians and creating wild spaces for nature in school grounds.
Find out more about Nower Wood education reserve and bespoke courses for students in science, nature and environmental issues.