Plastic Free North Devon inspires residents, tourists and businesses to drastically reduce their consumption of single-use plastic, remove it from the environment and dispose of it properly. With support from the Foundation, it has piloted an environmental education project that aims to encourage a shift in society where people want to care about the environment and can help to protect it no matter the personal circumstance.
Many young people in North Devon don’t have the opportunity to access surrounding areas of natural beauty because of variable social and economic issues that exist within their community. Even for those that do, that doesn’t mean they are consciously thinking about how what they do impacts the very environment around them. The practical tools for people to act in a more environmentally conscious way are not there for communities in North Devon to use and act upon.
This sits right at the heart of PFND’s campaign to increase care and stewardship over the natural world through education alongside real-life opportunities and experience. It seeks to deliver an engaging and informative education programme to local communities that:
Improves young people's understanding of the natural environment and its importance by encouraging a life-long love of nature;
Inspires further self-learning about nature and persuades them to make more sustainable lifestyle choices;
Encourages volunteering in northern Devon and beyond;
Encourages everyone to feel that they can be part of the environmental conversation.
In the first year of the pilot, PFND took a multi-layered approach through the following activities:
School and community engagement, using virtual reality technology to bring nature to local communities.
Real-life experiences for secondary school students to visit Lundy and experience the wildlife and landscape themselves.
Paid ambassador roles and voluntary opportunities, providing meaningful employment and experience for those seeking a career in the environmental sector.
Findings from year 1 of the pilot demonstrated the project’s potential, summarised by teaching staff at Ilfracombe Academy:
…The opportunity has given students not only an educational experience, but a chance to make a positive change which has had a positive impact on student’s confidence and wellbeing.
Building on learning from the first year, the Foundation has supported PFND for a second year towards hiring a new staff member to manage the programme. The second year will trial a longer, 6-week outreach programme which aims to provide a progressive pathway for local students (ages 11-16) to learn about nature, both in school and on field trips. Students can also get involved in ‘eco clubs’ throughout the year.
The second phase of the pilot will also focus on further depth with a selection of year 10/11 students that were on the previous cohort, by offering ongoing volunteer opportunities and work experience placements with PFND and other local environmental organisations. The Foundation will work closely with the team to ensure ongoing sustainability of the programme and to secure longer-term funding opportunities.