Mill Strand Integrated School. Credit Deidre Doherty

Get pupils connecting with nature this June

The Wildlife Trust’s ‘30 Days Wild’ initiative challenges everyone to get outside and do something with nature and wildlife every day in June. Independent studies have shown this can significantly improve wellbeing. Here are some ideas on what schools can do to get involved

The Wildlife Trusts’ annual challenge – 30 Days Wild –  calls on everyone to do something with nature and wildlife every day in June.  
A record number of 60,000 schools, people, families, businesses and care homes throughout the UK have signed up to receive a free pack of ideas and to take part.
30 Days Wild encourages everyone to enjoy nature in our neighbourhoods through daily Random Acts of Wildness: listening to bird song, gazing at butterflies, growing borage for bees and making the most of our parks, gardens and school grounds. Evidence shows that taking part can also make us happier and healthier.
Ellie Harrison, presenter of Countryfile and President of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, is supporting the event this year. She said: “Being outside in nature makes us all well. The smallest moments connecting – the surprise of a beetle revealing its wings; the fleeting secrets of bats at dusk; or the puff of valuable pollen from flowers we saw as weeds – all bring us wonder and enchantment. This June we’re challenging you to a Random Act of Wildness every single day of the month.  What will you be delighted by?”
Also supporting the event is James McVey of The Vamps. He said: “30 Days Wild is a fantastic challenge and everyone can take part -  whether it’s building a den, listening to the dawn chorus or visiting a favourite wild place, enjoying our wonderful wildlife can help us to feel happier and healthier, I’ll be joining in this June!”
Dr Amir Khan from Channel 5’s GPs behind closed doors said: “Spending time outdoors, enjoying wildlife on our doorstep and in our communities is free and can benefit our mental and physical health in so many ways. Spend a few moments every day in June taking part in random acts of wildness – notice something new in nature, climb a tree or create space for nature in your neighbourhood – The Wildlife Trusts has lots of ideas and inspiration to help you make the most of the 30 Days Wild challenge. Go Wild!”  

The Wildlife Trust’s Leanne Manchester says: “30 Days Wild is a much-loved challenge and it’s set to be an exciting month for everyone taking part. Experiencing a moment of nature every day on our doorstep or during lunchtime at work is elating in June when wildlife is so active and visible. Take time out to sit in a wild spot, enjoy the sunset or feel cool grass between your toes – June is such a beautiful month and the perfect time to go a bit wild.”

Proven benefits

The impact of taking part in 30 Days Wild has also been tracked by academics at the University of Derby. Their study found that people who did something ‘wild’ each day for a month, felt happier, healthier and more connected to nature, with added benefits for the natural world too.
Miles Richardson from the University of Derby said: “Our research looked at the impact of 30 Days Wild on 1,000 people, two months after completing the challenge. All those taking part benefitted, feeling 30 per cent healthier than when they started on average. People who reported a disconnect from nature and who spend less time outdoors, showed the greatest improvement in happiness and pro-conservation behaviours.  
“At a time when poor mental health is on the rise and the decline of our wildlife show no sign of slowing down, 30 Days Wild demonstrates what a much-needed new relationship with nature might look like, for everyone, throughout the year.”

Case study

Mill Strand Integrated School is fortunate to be located on the spectacular Causeway Coast and makes frequent use of the nearby beaches, in particular its namesake Mill Strand or West Strand, as well as its local landscape for outdoor learning. Pupils can often be found on the local beach undertaking various investigative and environmental activities. The school and pupils care deeply about protecting and caring for their environment.     
Deidre Doherty, the school’s Science & ECO Co-ordinator, first saw 30 Days Wild on social media.
She says: “We use our local beach & environment as an outside classroom. We are so passionate about it, we have adopted the school end of West Strand beach and we work hard to look after and protect it. During June we use the beach and local environment each day for our Random Acts of Wildness; activities incorporating nature, and wildlife. Sometimes we explore marine life along the strandline and the rockpools, other days we take books outside and read, or lay and watch the clouds floating by. It’s so important to connect our children to nature and to respect their unique marine environment so we regularly clean the beach and are very creative with what we find, leaving messages behind for the local community”
“The school won the Ulster Wildlife Trust’s marine litter competition with a colourful butterfly fish, created with flotsam and jetsam found on the beach.  And we were the first school in NI to purchase a 2 Minute Beach board – we’ve now got two – with litter pickers and bags to make clearing up rubbish easy.”
These ‘wild’ activities aren’t entirely random, June’s month long nature challenge fits perfectly with the school’s ethos, as Deirdre explains: “Today’s children engage less and less with nature, so it’s very important that as schools we put the natural world at the centre of our teaching and 30 days wild helps us to do this. It’s a different way of learning, but it works across the breadth of the curriculum, and engages students in their work. Why teach data handling indoors, when you can collect your data outdoors, using your surroundings? It’s still maths, but lessons capture children’s attention.”
Deirdre says this style of teaching suits students of all abilities: “Everyone benefits, I’ve seen how learning in nature can have an impact on children of all abilities especially those with special educational needs. Remove the classroom walls, and the sky’s the limit.”
The grassroots start to Mill Strand in 1987 is reflected in a free thinking and innovative approach to education at the school which advocates for a variety of holistic and hands-on learning. This mind-set is well suited to the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 days Wild and the programme has flourished at Mill Strand since 2015.