The Wild Things project has been an evolving journey for over 20 years now, but there are some key things that have remained at the heart of what Wild Things is all about.
Co-operation and Mutual Aid
Wild Things is a small not-for-profit co-operative, run by its members on co-operative and non-hierarchical principles. All decisions are made by the people in Wild Things who are directly working with the children and young people whom we support. Having co-operation, communication and mutual aid at the centre of what we do has enabled Wild Things to be resilient and creative. These principles are incorporated into all our programmes (as well as our delivery) as we believe that they offer children and young people empowering social tools for an un-certain future.
Access to the Natural World as a Basic Human Right
Humans have evolved from and are entirely dependent on the natural world and its systems, yet the majority of children and young people in Britain today have no access to time in nature, no chance to understand our integral connection with it, and no opportunity to gain the physical, emotional and social benefits that an active relationship with the natural environment brings.
We believe in working towards environmental justice, so that a healthy ecology and environment enriches and becomes the concern of all – not just the privileged, who have the most access to nature as well as the most power to exploit it.
Wild Things believe that all children and young people should have the right to spend time in, and form a lasting and nurturing relationship with the natural world – regardless of their circumstances and background. We recognise that there are multiple barriers in play to prevent this. The majority of Wild Things’ work over the years has therefore been focused on helping to navigate and break down some of these barriers for the young people most affected by them.*
Engaging Children's Heads and Hearts
Children today are inheriting a world that has plummeted into an ecological and social crisis as a result of the actions of adults. At the same time, they have been born in a time where people are more alienated from the natural world than ever before due to the combination of screen based lives, fear of risk taking and growing urbanization and industrialization.
Wild Things believe that we cannot expect children to take on the burden of this environmental legacy, or to come up with the creative solutions that will be necessary, without first letting them have a chance to connect to and understand their home planet. Wild Things programmes are all primarily designed to give children and young people the chance to feel at home on their home planet – to feel the freedom, sense of space, wildness, exhiliration and complexity of life around them. We see building this sense of connection as a vital first step in the journey to understanding and action to create positive change.
We want children to have the chance to get to know other species as neighbours, not just to percieve them as resources. By developing relationships and connections with different plant and animal species in their natural habitats, children can develop a sense of the intrinsic value of other species and eco-systems, independent of their use to humans.
As we believe that social issues are at the heart of the challenge of caring for and balancing our relationship with our environment, our programmes are also designed to develop confidence, self-esteem, communication, co-operation and organisational skills, to enable children and young people to rise to this challenge.
Woodland Based programmes
As one of our main aims is to enable children to experience their connection and place in the natural environment, all Wild Things programmes are woodland based. We believe that the diversity and complexity of the woodland environment, with its potential to offer the feelings of freedom, wildness and belonging, creates a high impacting and potentially life changing experience that sessions in school grounds or urban parks cannot fully simulate. We recognise that we are just providing one piece of the complicated jigsaw puzzle of how to re-connect ourselves to our environment.
High Staff : Child Ratios
We believe in tailoring our programmes anddelivery to meet the children’s needs whenever possible, so all our programmes are run with a high staff to child ratio. This gives us the flexibility to offer extra attention and support when necessary, to try and ensure that access barriers are reduced and activities can be tailored so every child can be included.
Providing emotional, social and educational support
Over more than two decades we have had the privilege to observe the emotional, social, physical and educational benefits that time in the natural world can offer. As a result we see the natural world as a perfect space for offering this extra support to children and young people who are facing additional barriers to wellbeing and social and educational inclusion. That is why a large proportion of our work is with specifically vulnerable children and young people, who may be seriously affected by economic and social issues. Some of our programmes, such as Forest School, are delivered specifically for small nurture groups, with a high ratio of Wild Things workers supporting the children and young people.
* Some of the ways in which Wild Things tackles these barriers include:
- Running on-going targeted projects with children and young people from highly urbanised areas affected by economic and social in-equality, and with no or little green space. For example, Wild Things has long standing and active working relationships with schools across the NG7 area of inner city Nottingham;
- Providing targeted provision for some of the most marginalised children and young people in the communities in which we work, who face additional barriers in accessing the natural world (for example: all girls projects, children in social care, young carers, children from migrant and refugee families who are newly arrived in the country);
- Removing financial barriers – a large part of Wild Things work is finding and applying for funding that enables us to work with groups faced with financial barriers to accessing experiences in the natural world. The funding allows us to run our programmes for these groups at either no cost or at a reduced cost.