26 August 2011

Muddy Knees and Frog Spotting...

In an increasingly digital age, there is concern about opportunities for young people to get outdoors and engage in wild play. Here Froglife's My Wild Life Project Officer Jodie Coomber ponders children’s changing relationships with nature.

Since starting work on My Wild Life, a project using gathering childhood memories of wildlife and playing outdoors, I have often thought about the wild play in my own childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural area where it was safe to wander off for hours on end and get into all sorts of muddy scrapes. It’s only now when I talk to people my age who have no memories of playing in the wild, that I realise I took my childhood for granted.

Author Richard Louv referred to recent generations’ lack of exposure to nature as ‘nature deficit disorder’. In the 2005 work Last Child in the Woods, this deficit was linked to increases in obesity, attention disorders and depression. He suggested disconnection from nature was caused by parental fear of crime and traffic, loss of outdoor spaces, and the indoor alternatives on offer such as computer games and television. The more recent report Childhood and Nature from Natural England echoes Louv’s concerns. Only 10% of today’s children play in wild places (countryside, woodlands, and heaths) compared to 40% of children 30-40 years ago.

A family pond dipping at a Froglife event
Talking to young people about their childhoods for My Wild Life, I am increasingly able to personalise the statistics in these reports. When interviewing Phil aged 20, I asked him what kinds of outdoor adventures he had as a child. His response: he didn’t. His father was too worried about him going out on his own and there wasn’t anywhere nearby to play outside. The result: he played with lego and rode his bike in circles outside the house. Phil has only just discovered his love of wildlife through Wildlife Ambassadors, a Froglife project to get people engaged with nature and give them conservation skills. Phil is now keen to spend more time outdoors using his new-found skills for the benefit of wildlife.

So it is possible to make up for a lack of exposure to nature during later life, but ensuring the young have access to nature is surely a better response. In London efforts are already underway. A new draft report Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting London’s Children with Nature, commissioned by the London Sustainable Development Commission, looks at children’s contact with nature in the capital. The report suggests using the outdoor child as an indicator species; the presence of children outdoors as a measure of the quality of neighbourhoods. The study is the first to produce a comprehensive assessment of London’s natural initiatives for children and the resulting recommendations will help to ensure that contact with nature becomes part of everyday life for London’s children.

Froglife works with young people to engage them with the natural environment from an early age. We also offer opportunities to people who may have missed out when they were growing up.  We are passionate about taking people with us on our conservation journey - a team effort is needed for us to save amphibians, reptiles and their habitats.

We are working towards a future where everyone has stories to share about their adventures spotting frogs, climbing trees and building dens.

You can donate to support Froglife's work providing opportunities for people to learn about and appreciate nature here.

 Photo: Jules Howard

22 August 2011

Join Bagpuss and Mr Toad for Our Toad Event!

Froglife has some exciting updates for our Tuppence a Toad event with the Zoological Society of London on Friday 30th September. As well as Mike Dilger, wildlife enthusiast from the BBC’s One Show, chairing an evening of informative discussions about toad conservation, the evening will also illuminate the cultural side of toads.

Bagpuss creator Peter Firmin will be joining us, with some reproductions of Gabriel the banjo playing toad from Bagpuss featured in our exhibition. Peter will also be talking about how we was inspired to created Gabriel.

Also featured in the Toads Through Time exhibition for mingling guests to enjoy will be photos of Terry Jones as Mr Toad, reproductions of illustrations from The Wind in the Willows by E.H Shepherd, Inga Moore and Robert Ingpen and images from Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. There will be photos by Dennis Low from a city wide exhibition of giant toads installed in Hull last year, images of a giant sculpture by Keith Gibbons, and incredible art that blurs the line with science by Brandon Ballengée.

Froglife toad characters Widdy and Wigbert will be brushing shoulders with other toad celebrities at London Zoo on September 30th
On the night, you will be able to buy Froglife Christmas cards, toads and frog greetings cards, and enter our fabulous fundraising raffle. So far prizes include photographic prints courtesy of toadographer Dennis Low and a voucher for a pair of stunning wellies courtesy of Hunter!

All profits from the night will be split between Froglife and ZSL to go towards amphibian conservation projects.

The important details:

Tuppence a Toad: Tales from UK Toad Conservation and Beyond
Friday September 30th 2011
The Huxley Theatre, London Zoo, Regents Park, London, NW14RY
Doors open at 6pm with time to buy drinks and mingle
Talks starting at 7pm
Talks by Peter Firmin on the inspiration behind the creation of Gabriel, the banjo playing toad from the Bagpuss series, Froglife staff and trustees and ZSL researchers
Wrapping up at 10pm
Tickets: £8.50 or £5 for Froglife Friends

Thanks to: River and Rowing Museum Henley on Thames, Brandon Ballengee and The Arts Catalyst, Dennis Low and Larkin 25, Adrianne Lobel and Harper Collins, Robert Ingpen and Pallazzo Editions, Inga Moore and the Illustration Cupboard, Keith Gibbons, Terry Jones, Peter Firmin and Mike Dilger.

You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians and reptiles for as little as £1.50 a month. Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.