Green Futures aims to connect hundreds of young people with nature conservation in the Royal Parks, gaining new skills to help combat the climate emergency. Funding from the Kusuma Trust has enabled the Green Futures project to offer each participating school three day-long nature conservation experiences in the Parks over one school year. There will be two cohorts, the first made up of five schools in year one and of six schools in year two. Each school is invited to bring its entire KS3 year group, and a selection of Year 12 students (c.50 each year in total) will take a leadership role.
The activities will include citizen science and practical fieldwork, designed to show how conservation work is experimenting with adaptive measures in the context of environmental changes. Back at school their experience will be used to support project work, reflecting on the work they have contributed to the parks.
Year 12 students work towards completing ASDAN short course awards, through which they will gain experience of planning events and activities whilst learning about careers in the sector. They also play a leadership role in supporting KS3 students, directing activities during their visits. In the second year of the project Year 12 students returned to support the new cohort of students. Some of these will be invited in future to advise the Royal Parks on its approach to creating engaging and meaningful programmes for young people.
We established an evaluation framework colelcting baseline attitudes and skills of the students which would measure progression through the programme. Evaluation of Green Futures demonstrated a positive experience of situated learning with strong outcomes in an understanding of biodiversity and ecosystems. Year 12 students gained ASDAN qualifications and showed an increased confidence in their leadership and communication skills. Across the project, there was a strong likelihood that at least 75% of participants will feel more confident in visiting more natural settings and are more appreciative of biodiversity and facilities in the Royal Parks. Interviews with teachers were undertaken throughout the project to capture the impact on their professional knowledge, the curriculum and schools. The report was presented alongside a workshop with Royal Parks staff to set out actions for the future of their programming and identify key opportunities and challenges as the programme expands.
The first two years of the programme ran from 2021 to 2023 with students working with staff at Hyde Park. Funding has been extended for a further two years enabling Royal Parks to expand to other parks in its estate, enhance the digital resources for schools, and offer more in-school outreach sessions.