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Naturehood and the 2020 Environmental Reset

As lockdown eases and ‘the Class of Covid-19’ adjust their higher education and employment plans, Earthwatch Europe’s Community Engagement Officer, Chloe Dalglish, lays out five ways volunteering with wildlife project Naturehood could boost essential skills for young people.

It’s 2020; the year that nothing went to plan. With the entire world reeling from the effects of the pandemic, everyone is rethinking their plans - including tens of thousands of British school leavers and university students. With backpacking, overseas volunteer programmes and industry placements disrupted, many young people are now looking for a new area of focus which will make the most of their free time outside academic study.

Based on the premise that the creation of small, concentrated areas of wildlife friendly space is more effective than disparate, large scale activity, Earthwatch’s Naturehood project encourages and rewards people to join forces and take small steps together to support local wildlife. Suitable for either a planned or unexpected gap year, term break or even alongside academic studies - especially if the autumn term is limited to remote learning – introducing Naturehood to their local area and becoming a Community Leader could be one of the most rewarding assignments students can undertake this year.

From developing practical skills to include on your CV and learning from peers and leaders, to making a real difference within the community and protecting local wildlife, Naturehood has a lot to offer Generation Z.

Become a Community Leader

Although there are many valuable skills to be gained across the project, Naturehood also offers our volunteer Community Leaders regular, personal support in their leadership, management and event planning roles on the online platform.

Online meetings commence from August onwards on a monthly schedule, allowing Community Leaders to discuss their local outreach, share ideas, problem solve as a group and grow their skill set in an open and informal setting so that they feel confident applying their skills in future works.

The online platform also offers a set of downloadable resources to help Community Leaders plan local events, reach out to the wider community, engage with members of the public, coordinate a team of participants and record the results of their local group programme. All leaders, no matter the setting, run projects differently. This is a great opportunity to take on a management role yourself and to see how you can work with others to get the best results - essential work experience!

Cross-generation learning

Naturehood actively draws on a diverse cross-section of the local communities we work with. For our student volunteers and leaders, this cross-generational participation presents a wonderful opportunity to engage with and learn from all age groups with a common goal of preserving and protecting local wildlife.

Naturehood is all about collective community action – the more people taking part in localised action, the greater the potential benefits to wildlife and the more meaningful the research data. People collaborating and working together will not only lead to the best results but will also offer a wealth of lessons and insights between demographics that you simply wouldn’t gain from a more exclusive group.

This is also a great setting for developing communication skills with a range of audiences (schools, community groups, children, retirees, students, academics, families, professionals) across a variety of mediums (online, social media, telephone, face to face, presentations, public speaking). The regular interactions with a variety of participants and leaders will focus communication strategies and as students become more involved, which we think will build a real sense of personal confidence within a community leadership role.

Practical skills

Community Leaders for Naturehood can take their own programme in whichever direction interests them - whether it’s developing micro-habitats for a particular species, running family activity sessions or replanting wildflowers in your local area.

An enhanced knowledge of gardening for wildlife is an inevitable advantage for our participants. Naturehood’s practical resources and an in-house team of ecologists will help develop a robust set of outdoor skills including wildlife identification, wildlife garden design and planting - advantageous in particular to those looking to study or work within the natural sciences, environment and/or public policy.

Teamwork is an essential component in our work, and those leading a team will gain all the necessary skills to further your goals via good management, communication, inclusion, adaptability, creativity and personal support to participants. These non-academic people skills are essential for success within your Naturehood community group and for encouraging new ideas, commitment and increased interest. The cultivation of these team skills will stand you in good stead for future employment prospects.

Academic and professional skills

Every Naturehood participant, no matter the level or involvement is contributing to national research into UK biodiversity.

But for those who would like to up their commitment, Community Leaders will develop an enhanced understanding of the issues and threats facing UK wildlife, the local and national environment and how public policy helps and hinders the preservation of our most important natural habitats.

In addition, leadership with Naturehood could also provide experience in a multitude of personal and professional skills including IT proficiencies; basic public relations via social media and local media; evaluation and analysis; report writing; activity planning; risk assessment; and first aid.

Personal wellbeing

This year has been a difficult one for most people, and the mental health concerns surrounding the pandemic have been headline news. Fortunately, the social and well-being benefits of being outdoors and/or volunteering in nature are well documented.

Some of these personal benefits include reduced stress, increased feeling of well-being from connecting with others, and combatting loneliness and isolation. Socialising with new and like-minded people (both in the community and online) is an excellent boost to mental health, whilst being physically active in the outdoors contributes to overall health and happiness.

Additionally, the acquisition of new skills and the knowledge that you’re contributing to a greater good can increase both self-confidence and self-worth - a benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked for those taking time out from structured studying or work, who will want to maintain purpose, value, motivation and self-assurance going forwards.

To find out more and sign up for Naturehood in your local area, visit www.naturehood.uk. Once you’ve created your online account, visit the ‘Register a Naturehood’ page in the platform to let us know you’d like to become a Community Leader.

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