At first glance, I would guess that the object in front of me is just a tattered old shoebox filled with an eclectic selection of recycling, but I would be wrong. “This is the bicycle-powered electricity system which powers my tv,” explains the creator of the box, pointing at a miniature bicycle made from tin foil, “and this is the vegetable patch where I grow my own food”. The creator is in fact an eight-year old Girlguide who is showing me around her ‘sustainable house’ made from recycling as part of a session run by the student-led volunteering project, Generation Wild. The project, set up in 2014 by students from Falmouth and Exeter University, aims to teach children in the local area about the environment around them and how they can protect it. Through wildlife and sustainability-based games and crafts, children learn basic outdoor skills, how to provide spaces for wildlife in their garden and how to incorporate ideas of sustainability into their daily lives. The sessions run weekly, with the project visiting the same school, Girlguiding unit, or Scouts group for three weeks, focussing on a different environmental theme each time.
I first volunteered for Generation Wild about a year ago and since then I’ve joined the committee and have been able to experience lots of different types of sessions, from rock pooling on local beaches, to playing a blindfolded game to learn how bats use echolocation. What inspires me to keep volunteering with the project is the way in which the children engage with what we’re trying to teach them; they really care about the wildlife around them and want to take an active role in looking after it, they just need the tools to do so. This was especially clear at the recent Rainbows Anniversary event, where we got the girls involved with a mini beach clean and asked them to write how we could look after our beaches better to prevent plastic pollution. The response was touching, with lots of the girls highlighting how important it is to look after our dolphins, fish, and turtles as well as ideas like having a beach clean club every week and picking up rubbish even if it isn’t yours. Having parents stop us on the way out of outreach sessions to thank us for what we are doing, or kids telling us during sessions that we’re ‘making this into the best day ever’ is just further confirmation of how important environmental education is.
If you like the sound of what we’re doing and want to find out more about how you can get involved with future sessions, then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking to take on new volunteers, and no previous experience is required, you can just join us on a session and get stuck in!