Generations of children on finding colourful autumn leaves or springtime catkins on weekend walks with their parents, would take in their treasured find to add to the class nature table. They gained a direct knowledge of what was living about them, and realised how the season’s changed. BNA chairman Roger Tabor said:
“The loss of the nature table from the school classroom is symptomatic of the increasing lack of direct contact with the natural world for youngsters today. We have been depriving children of the joy of finding out about their local inheritance of wildlife. This campaign to ‘Bring Back the Nature Table’ is a positive step in the right direction”.
The British Naturalists’ Association has always encouraged Young Naturalists to learn about the wildlife around them. In the very first issue of the Association’s magazine “Country-side” in 1905 it encouraged nature study in schools. In that same first 1905 issue of Country-side it read:
“Of course, one of the great educational advantages in bringing natural objects into the school is that with a little care and forethought children may be taught to observe for themselves and so learn the art of thinking. Examination of specimens then has a distinct value in recording phenomena of wild life”.
The following issue of Country-side a week later encouraged school classrooms to make their own local nature map. The school children would be asked what they had seen, an early summer flower or butterfly, which would be marked on with each new record. The next issue noted
“The first step in nature-teaching is to gain a knowledge of local objects. The main idea of all our nature teaching is to bring the breath of the fields within the four walls of the school”
The BNA also had a Schools’ Exchange established in 1905 so that kids in city schools could receive nature table materials from country schools, and vice versa. The Association was also promoting the nature table as ‘nature museums for the classroom’. The British Naturalists’ Association is proud to have this strong tradition from its earliest days of encouraging youngsters to discover more about natural history. Do you remember a pot of pussy-willow on the school nature table of your youth, and how you were fascinated by the silkiness of what looked like grey-white fur emerging from buds? It is alarming that today too many children have been robbed of this first hand experience of their natural world.
Country Living Magazine commissioned a survey which alarmingly revealed that less than half of parents and grandparents regularly take their children out for a regular walk, and that of those that did fewer took time to stop and look at wildflowers or insects with them. The Government launched its ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ manifesto which is now recognising the need for children to become familiar with the natural world, and the real value of trips to the park or nature reserves, and of parents to introducing their children to such places as well.
Why not take your children out with you on a local British Naturalists’ Association wildlife walk at a weekend, where as a family you can find out about the plants and wildlife as expert naturalists talk about the things you see?