Environmental charity Earthwatch Europe has teamed up with the OVO Foundation as part of their new £1m Climate Changers programme, to bring dozens of Tiny Forests to schools in some of the least advantaged areas of the UK, helping to inspire and educate thousands of children and young people to take action on the climate crisis.
Earthwatch is pioneering the development of Tiny Forests in the UK: planting native woodlands the size of a tennis court to enhance urban environments. Despite their small size, scientific modelling shows that Tiny Forests deliver powerful environmental benefits, including flood mitigation, improved air quality, noise reduction near busy roads, and havens for wildlife. They also provide spaces for people to connect with nature, improving well-being.
Thanks to support from OVO Foundation, Earthwatch will establish 12 Tiny Forests to improve the physical environment for children in deprived communities across the UK, and connect them with the environment and sustainability. A total of 24 schools, 480 educators and 9,000 students will have access to these Tiny Forests. Learning experts from Earthwatch will provide training and resources for teachers to educate children in the outdoors, breaking down the boundaries of typical classroom-based learning. A further 1,200 young people aged 18 to 25 will conduct scientific monitoring of each Tiny Forest.
Maria Pontes, Programmes and Partnerships Director at Earthwatch, said: “Young people all over the world are taking action to protect their future and that of our planet. Earthwatch is committed to empowering the next generation with the knowledge and skills to do this, and thanks to the support of the OVO Foundation, we are delighted to be able to expand our exciting new Tiny Forests initiative to 24 schools. We are looking forward to connecting children and teachers with nature outside the classroom, and, as the saying goes, seeing mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”
In the wake of the global pandemic and calls on the UK Government to build back better and greener, Tiny Forests also provide a natural solution for businesses’ sustainability strategies, as well as councils that have declared a climate emergency. Just earlier this year, Earthwatch and Witney Town Council planted the UK’s first Tiny Forest in Oxfordshire.
Earthwatch’s Tiny Forest initiative is one of three projects which support OVO's new sustainability strategy, Plan Zero, by educating the younger generation on how to reduce their carbon footprint, protect the physical environment and to encourage their journey towards zero carbon living.
OVO Foundation’s new Climate Changers programme has been developed in response to recent research which suggests 13% of children and 5% of young people typically never spend any of their leisure time outdoors, and only 21% of 8–12 year olds have an adequate level of connection to nature.
Gaby Sethi, Head of OVO Foundation, said: “The climate crisis is urgent, and whilst it’s up to all of us to do our bit, we know that not all children and young people are taught how important it is – or even given the skills to help. There are feelings of helplessness, but not hopelessness, as they search for ways to take action. This is where our projects come in. It’s our mission to not only help children understand why they should care about the environment, but connect them with opportunities to have a meaningful difference and show them how they can protect it for future generations.”
The Climate Changers programme will also support two other charities over three years: Action for Conservation (AFC) and Energy Sparks.