Eco adventures – what role in kids’ education?

Nicola Baird

29 April 2013

Guest blogger Nicola Baird is an author, environmental writer and blogger - more at www.nicolabaird.com 

If the Department for Education's plans to alter eco-teaching in the school curriculum go ahead, 5-7 year olds will no longer learn about the environment in the classroom (read Cutting climate from the curriculum leaves me cold). Whatever happens, there are plenty of other ways we can teach our children about the world around them. 
 
Politically we can make a noise – perhaps by campaigning about climate change, or getting them involved in outdoor challenges like the National Trust’s 50 Things. And of course, reading has always played an important – and fun – role too. Young independent readers have always enjoyed animal adventure stories. Classics like the Just So Stories, Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Born Free, or anything by Michael Morpugo – for example The Last Wolf - continue to teach children about animal and plant behaviour without the pressure of being tested. 

A new book by Piers Torday, TV writer and Friends of the Earth supporter, continues this tradition: “I love stories about wizards, witches and werewolves”, he said to me when I met him, “but I felt English wildlife was being neglected in children’s fiction. I wanted to remind children that you can have as much adventure in your own garden – or the park – as can be found on the computer.”
 
Torday’s debut novel, The Last Wild, encourages readers to get to know places better. By chance, Piers’ father Paul Torday did something similar with his best-seller about business and resources clashing in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

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The Last Wild follows a 12 year-old boy named Kester and his friend Polly, in a Dr Dolittle style adventure, on a journey that keeps going wrong - with wonderful illustrations from Thomas Flintham. Expect lots of talking animals – ranging from the majestic stag on the book’s cover to some very cheeky mini-beasts.
 
Here’s what my daughter Nell May (12) felt after finishing the book:
 
“He’s writing about the future. Eating pink gloop formula that’s flavoured as chicken and chips sounds disgusting. But what if the same happened to us? What if the countryside becomes a quarantine zone? What if all the animals die out? I laughed at the way the white pigeon spoke and cried over some of the animals’ deaths, and I felt like I was in the adventure when Kester tries to find a cure for the red eye. But the lesson is to protect our world, animals and countryside.”
 
Torday's book is a fantastic adventure story, which will encourage young minds to think about today’s big environmental issues. Let's hope they'll continue to learn about them in the classroom too. 
 
Find out more about inspiring young minds in the classroom on our Learning website.

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