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Keeping Nature-Based Environmental Education Vague, Inaccessible and Rare: Read More About the Research Findings of Restoration Academy

Over the past six months the project team of Restoration Academy has been investigating the current state of nature-based environmental education and initiatives in the European Union, especially Finland, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Greece.

The transnational report increases understanding of definitions, challenges, and opportunities of nature-based environmental education and includes the results of the survey made for youth workers and youth on their experiences and perceptions of environmental education and nature restoration. The good practices collected from the EU and partner countries provide an overview of nature restoration related initiatives.

What is clear is that the situation is not simple; there are efforts to provide nature-based environmental education to youth but at the same time there are some clear opportunities for upscaling and improving this practice and gaining a win-win situation for more resilient nature and climate and young people.

Are you a youth worker interested in offering nature-based environmental education for young people? Or perhaps you are a young person interested in increasing your learning opportunities? Then these materials could be for you!

About nature-based environmental education

A more holistic approach to environmental education can help to address more efficiently the need to counter the impacts of human behavior on nature. Nature-based environmental education, thanks to its more hands-on character, offers differentiating elements, particularly nature connectedness.

Strong empirical evidence on the relationship between nature-based environmental education and environmental behavior is lacking, but there are some results which favor the idea of direct contact with nature being more beneficial for our learning processes.

There is, for example, increasing evidence that nature-based environmental education is highly effective among school age children, which has been the focus group of most research related to the topic.

Considering possible benefits of nature-based environmental education to youth in general, these could include:

  • Relieving stress and increasing intrinsic motivation levels, as well as promoting longer lasting interest in an activity.
  • Supporting establishing deeper group relationships by finding oneself on equal terms around others, therefore also reducing or eliminating socioeconomic gaps.
  • Promoting environmental stewardship or an emotional connection to nature that fosters pro-environmental behavior and attitudes.

Considering how important environmental action has been recently for young people across the world, youth work could set an example of delivering its learning and training goals using more nature-based environmental education and activities.

Read more about the state, challenges and opportunities related to environmental education in the EU and partner countries to Restoration Academy:

Transnational report in English

Highlights from the survey

The survey was conducted to create a baseline for the other activities and objectives of the project by first investigating the knowledge, gaps and the needs of young people and youth workers to understand and embrace nature-based environmental education and especially nature restoration as a means for it.

The survey was primarily targeted to youth workers interested in environmental education, as well as youth interested in the theme.

Most youth worker respondents in all countries reported some level of familiarity with nature-based environmental education, with varying degrees of involvement in leading such activities. Most common examples of nature-based activities mentioned were trash clean-ups and waste management initiatives.

Barriers related to nature-based environmental education included difficulties in planning impactful learning activities, limited accessibility to nature, time constraints, and administrative/legal restrictions. Skills and knowledge gaps were identified particularly in areas related to organizational aspects and practical implementation.

Despite some challenges, most participants felt empowered by their workplaces to incorporate nature-based activities into their work. The discrepancy between feeling empowered and facing practical challenges indicates a need for greater alignment between organizational support and resource availability.

Perceptions of the impact of nature-based environmental activities on target groups varied among participants, with some expressing doubts about the effectiveness of current initiatives. This suggests a need for greater clarity and alignment of goals and outcomes in nature-based environmental education efforts to maximize their impact and effectiveness.

In the case of young people, most of the respondents said to have received some kind of environmental education during their life, however, there were quite varying perspectives on its effectiveness. Many mentioned their experiences lacked practicality. There was some very basic awareness on nature restoration, but not much hands-on experiences.

Initiatives on nature restoration and community engagement

The good practices collected and analyzed complement the desk research by providing concrete examples of nature-based and nature restoration activities that can spark inspiration among youth workers and young people in Europe.

The brochure includes two good practices from each partner country, as well as two from the EU:

  • Youth-oriented nature restoration camps and youth-led stream restoration activities from the Finnish Nature Association from Finland.
  • Restoration of the fir forest of the Parnitha National Park and the initiative “Forest Group”, aiming to promote profound connection with nature, from Greece.
  • The “Tiny Forest” forest planting initiative and the citizen-led mobile restoration initiative “King’s Garden” from the Netherlands.
  • Conservation and restoration measures in Natura 2000 areas of the organization BROZ and initiatives and projects focusing on habitat and species protection and community engagement led by SOS/BirdLife Slovakia from Slovakia.
  • The EU-funded “Living Bog” project to restore Ireland’s raised bogs and the MERLIN project to restore freshwater-related ecosystems across Europe from the European level.

Common to all the good practices is that they all combine nature conserving or restoring activities to community engagement, for example through volunteering.

Read more

Restoration Academy Strives to Engage Youth in Nature Restoration
Restoration Academy: Project Results and Materials
Restoration Academy: Photo Gallery

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.