t Nature in the classroom? How to Spawn the Next Gerald Durrell - Ethical Hedonist

Nature in the classroom? How to Spawn the Next Gerald Durrell

April 29, 2017 in Nature News


With half the UK’s wildlife gone in forty years, Mary Colwell, the BBC producer, author and environmental commentator is calling on the UK government to create a GCSE in natural history to be taught in the nation’s schools. Colwell sees this as a vital instrument to reconnect children and the next generation to the birds, insects and plant life that we are inter-dependant upon for our survival on earth.

Mary has launched a petition, which has reached over 10,000 signatures, and there is still time to sign and support the campaign before the deadline on May 3rd 2017. You can sign the petition here –  Petition Parliament for a GCSE in Natural History  When a petition reaches 10,000 signatures the government responds. When 100,000 people sign, a petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Commenting on the campaign and petition Colwell tells Ethical Hedonist Magazine, “ Over the past fifty years, the UK has lost 50% of its wildlife, and this is sad for many reasons, not least because we need other life to support our agriculture, provide healthy soils and clean air and pure water. Important as these services obviously are, there are other reasons to lament the loss of British wildlife. The sight, sound and activity of life on earth inspires in us all kinds of creativity.  Human beings are down to other life and have expressed that in many ways.  We have drawn animals on cave walls, written about them from the earliest times, used them to express our deepest fears and hopes in folklore, tales and poems. To lose the natural world is to lose so much of what makes us human.”

A Perfect Storm

Colwell goes on to talk about a ‘perfect storm’ where children are growing up divorced from the natural world, and their understanding of our place in the natural order of things. She declares, “it is time we put nature back into the very heart of education, not as an add on but as a core subject that everyone should be taught at some level – and have the option to study in more depth if they want to.”

The author of a book on the Victorian naturalist and explorer,  John Muir, Colwell says a new GCSE in natural history would encourage kids to go back to basics,  go out into the natural world and develop their skills in identifying, monitoring and recording nature and eco systems, beyond the playstation and the smart phone.  So, is it time for our children to discover dirt, insects and wiggly wigglers, in a way that children used to do when carrying tadpoles home in a jar was considered far more thrilling than watching reality television? While Mary has plenty of support,  she also has her detractors, who think that learning about migratory birds and insects is not essential in the way that teaching maths and English is.

From Darwin to Gilbert White

Colwell disagrees.  She points out that teaching maths will become irrelevant if we don’t look after nature and she goes further. ” I would like children to understand how the seasons affect wildlife and how that is changing. I would like the history of studying natural history to be taught, from the earliest pioneers to Darwin, and the great natural scientists today. She would also like the proposed GCSE to explore the tradition of nature in literature and art – from Gilbert White to -Robert McFarlane; and to understand how nature on TV and Radio affects conservation. She suggests there are many strands to be explored.

“It might be that a new connection between NGOs and education can be forged where naturalists go into to schools to teach the field skills.”

Nurture the Naturalists of the Future

Looking forward, Mary Colwell believes that adding natural history to the curriculum would go a long way towards nurturing the naturalists of the future and perhaps the next David Attenborough, with a voice to help halt and reverse the decline in wildlife before it is too late.

Editorial Comment

Given that Planet Earth 2 was was more popular than the X-Factor, we predict growing interest in Mary’s idea, not least from the budding new generation of Attenborough’s who will be just as excited by fossils and flora and fauna as David was, aged seven and three quarters.

To find out more about Mary Colwell’s films, books, walks and  wildlife activism visit her website –  Curlew Productions


about the author

Alison Jane Reid

Alison Jane Reid - Journalist, Editor & Emerald Princess of Slow, Sustainable Luxury Living - 18 year track record interviewing real icons for: The Times, The Lady, You, The Mirror and Country Life. Now leading her alluring fairtrade, emerald revolution - Don’t Miss Out - Have you joined The Ethical Hedonist set?

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *