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The Impact of Partnership: supporting people’s engagement with nature

Logo: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
Logo: John Muir Trust

Each year, the John Muir Trust supports over 1,500 organisations across the UK to engage 40,000 people of all backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places. It does this through the John Muir Award – a nationally recognised environmental award scheme.

Sarah McNeill, the John Muir Trust’s John Muir Award Scotland Project Manager, reflects on the role of partnerships.


John Muir Trust and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park partnership

The reach of the John Muir Award would not be possible without our partners – from youth groups, adult and family workers and schools, to residential centres, local authorities and national parks.

In 2013, a mutually beneficial partnership was formed between the John Muir Trust and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to support John Muir Award activity in and around the National Park. Its purpose is to promote environmental engagement and outdoor learning for all, and help deliver National Park Partnership Plan outcomes across visitor experience, conservation & land management, and rural development.

The partnership places the John Muir Award at the heart of environmental engagement and outdoor learning schemes promoted by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It was chosen because the John Muir Award:

  • is a flexible, practical and experience based learning scheme that can be used by a wide range of learners from inclusion groups to self-guided individuals
  • encourages outdoor activity and links participants to first-hand experience of wildness and the natural environment
  • increases people’s understanding of the special qualities of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and of John Muir (the ‘founder’ of National Parks)
  • is a nationally recognised scheme that supports curriculum learning and pupil attainment
  • is freely available and inclusive, to ensure disadvantage isn’t a barrier to people experiencing wild places.
    John Muir Award in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park  training course at Lochgoilhead Outdoor Centre ©Lucy Sparks
    John Muir Award in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park training course at Lochgoilhead Outdoor Centre ©Lucy Sparks

    “It’s fantastic to see the progress achieved through the partnership between Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and The John Muir Trust since August 2013, and to see the benefits for both Award participants and for the environment in and around the National Park. We look forward to facilitating even more learning opportunities and experiences in the years to come.”

    Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park

    National Park partnership outcomes

    • Over 10,000 John Muir Awards achieved through outreach
    • 25% achieved by people experiencing some form of disadvantage
    • 130 partner organisations engaged with the National Park, including schools, outdoor centres, youth & community groups, employability groups, individuals and families
    • 20 training opportunities supporting over 300 professionals and volunteers
    • 4 good practice sharing events engaging over 70 participants
    • 10 inspiring case studies and stories from schools, outdoor centres, youth groups, families, staff teams, individuals and volunteers
    • 2 conserve audits summarising how John Muir Award activity helps care for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
    • 7 National Park staff team John Muir Awards for staff development
    • 2 special interest courses, Dark Skies in National Parks and Literacy & Nature events
    After attending training, Tullochan Youth Services and Knoxland  Primary School took their literacy learning outside using The Lost  Words book and Explorers Guide as inspiration. Watch their  creative creature raps and songs here.  ©Tullochan Youth Services
    After attending training, Tullochan Youth Services and Knoxland Primary School took their literacy learning outside using The Lost Words book and Explorers Guide as inspiration. Watch their creative creature raps and songs here. ©Tullochan Youth Services

    Young People and Nature

    Inspired by Year of Young People 2018 in Scotland, and #iwill4nature across the UK, the partnership has also focused on young people’s nature connection.

    Nature connection research from the University of Derby recognises that early experiences in nature impact our relationship with it throughout our lives, which is not only beneficial for us, but for the planet too. This research urges outdoor practitioners to move beyond traditional routes of ‘knowledge and identification’ activities to those that enable people to develop more emotional and meaningful experiences in nature, through the pathways towards nature connectedness of contact, beauty, meaning, emotion and compassion.

    This Nature Connectedness research acknowledges happiness, health and wellbeing benefits of closer relationships between people and the natural world, and the long term influence this has on a person’s pro-environmental behaviours.

    “The evidence is clear; the well-being of future populations and the planet depends on closer, positive and sustainable human-nature relationships.” Finding Nature, Professor Miles Richardson

    Oscar, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Youth Committee  Member and Junior Ranger ©Martin MacLeod
    Oscar, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Youth Committee Member and Junior Ranger ©Martin MacLeod

    The John Muir Award encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with wild places, enjoy them, and help care for them. Many in society have been inspired by the youth-led movement for change in response to our climate crisis, people all over the world are feeling empowered to speak up and take climate action. During a 2018 audit of John Muir Award Conserve activity in Scotland, an impressive 29,848 days of activity was recorded. These were carried out by 19,346 young people and valued at £783,500. One young Award participant reflected on their conservation experience saying “As we came to the end of the [John Muir Award] week I started to realise how much we need to appreciate what we have.”

    Additional outcomes

    In 2018, the John Muir Trust commissioned a young film maker to direct, shoot and edit a series of films to help share what young people think about nature and the outdoors. The partnership with the National Park provided a good opportunity to focus one film on the voices of young people engaged through National Park Junior Ranger programmes. Oscar, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Youth Committee Member and Junior Ranger, reflected that when spending time outdoors “there’s no stress, there’s nothing really to be worried about, it lifts all your thoughts away”. Watch Oscar’s full film here.


    Looking forward….

    ver the years, we’ve seen the partnership with Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park develop to meet changing national and local agendas – health & wellbeing, curriculum learning, biodiversity awareness, responsible access, nature connection, sustainability and climate emergency to name a few.

    Key strategic partnerships such as this will continue to flex and respond to the organisational and national needs, helping ensure the relevance of developing people’s nature connection, and involvement in caring for our natural environment.

    Contact the John Muir Trust to find out what a partnership could look like for your organisation.

    https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/contact

    Hill of Beath Primary School Award Participants with Ardroy Outdoor  Centre ©Ardroy OEC
    Hill of Beath Primary School Award Participants with Ardroy Outdoor Centre ©Ardroy OEC

    Find out more…

    Partnership Impact Report: Celebrating over five years of successful partnership working between Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park & John Muir Trust: https://c-js.co.uk/2shVRiT

    John Muir Award dedicated webpages:

    https://c-js.co.uk/2sh0auL

    https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/john-muir-award

    John Muir Award Year of Young People 2018 Conserve Audit: A summary of conservation activity carried out by young people to meet the Conserve Challenge of the John Muir Award throughout 2018: https://c-js.co.uk/2rkLKJJ

    Young People & Nature Webpages: Research and feedback, initiatives, and stories that highlight ways that young people can, and do, take practical action for nature: www.johnmuirtrust.org/youngpeople

    Footnote

    Lumber R, Richardson M, Sheffield D (2017) Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177186. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177186

    First published in CJS Focus on the Next Generation in association with Action for Conservation on 2 December 2019. Read the full issue here

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