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Storytelling is key to engaging youngsters in the natural world

Geology “rock star” and TV presenter professor Iain Stewart is urging teachers across the nation to become storytellers in a bid to engage more young people in the natural world.
The BBC presenter, best known for his science shows such as ‘Men of Rock’ and ‘How the Earth Made Us’, said geography teachers and other experts in environmental subjects needed to start selling the ‘wonder’ of being outdoors.
Speaking at the Field Studies Council’s Vital Nature of Field Studies conference held in London recently, the University of Plymouth professor of Geoscience Communications, said: “We need to create a sense of ‘that’s cool’ and demonstrate that being in the field is something good to do.
“It’s about wonder and finding amazing things right on our doorstep. It’s about capturing geo-poetry of the world and the things that got us, as academics, excited about the natural world in the first place.
“Scientists are fixated with facts but by themselves they are pretty boring. There needs to be less emphasis on the facts and more on communicating the bigger picture stories of our natural world.”
The leading geologist was among several keynote speakers at the conference* held by UK outdoor education charity the FSC to celebrate its 75th year.
Attended by environmental academics and experts from across the UK, the event addressed some of the key challenges facing the UK’s teaching sector when it comes to outdoor learning and subjects such as geography, environmental science and geology.
It also highlighted key opportunities for promoting the importance of field studies and residential trips – the FSC’s area of expertise having welcomed 165,000 students to its network of educational centres last year.Iain Stewart encouraging teachers to engage with youngsters with storytelling about the natural world
FSC chief executive Mark Castle used the conference to announce the charity’s strategy for the next five years.
In setting out the charity’s vision, he warned there was a real risk that children were missing out on opportunities to learn outdoors.
“There remains a need to provide high quality environmental education that is accessible to all, not just those who can afford it,” he said.
“Those that are likely to benefit most are often the least able to take advantage of the opportunities that first hand experiences in awe-inspiring places can provide.”
He added that residential experiences away from home were not guaranteed for every child and practical fieldwork was often squeezed out of a busy school timetable despite the fact it was these experiences which often made subjects memorable and fun.
“A residential experience in a stunning location is the perfect way to immerse people in the story of a landscape and their place in it. It promotes curiosity and understanding and from that comes knowledge and passion.”
The new FSC strategy is focused on inspiring everyone to be curious, knowledgeable, passionate and caring about the environment and over the next few years the charity will be focused on developing new outdoor learning opportunities for all ages.
It will take its skills and expertise to local communities to engage a wider audience as part of its pledge to ‘do more and reach more’.

The conference can be viewed via YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En3pGWKjLCk&t=6151s

For additional information on the FSC and the courses it provides visit the website https://www.field-studies-council.org/

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