Kirsty Chalmers: Time to reward our young nature champions – do you know of any?

Kirsty Chalmers, Projects & Events Officer, RSPB Scotland
Kirsty Chalmers, Projects & Events Officer, RSPB Scotland
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Given the frequent news reports highlighting the decline in time young ­people spend outdoors, you might not automatically associate them with nature conservation.

Yet, Scotland’s young people are key to safeguarding our diverse wild ­places and urban habitats and it’s vitally important that we nurture their interest and inspire them to ­support nature. At RSPB Scotland we want to encourage young ­people across the country to contribute towards protecting it now with the hope that they carry this forward into their adult lives.

Connecting children with nature is at the forefront of our education delivery and our youth and family engagement; all you need to do is get down to one of our top three ­family reserves and see for yourself how valued this audience is, with self-led activities and events going on year round.

However, it’s really important to remember that there are already young ambassadors doing great things for Scottish nature across. Showing the positive contribution that young people play will be ­essential in making positive changes now and in the future. With the Year of Young People in full swing it is a fitting time to make sure that their efforts are recognised.

There have been some fantastic projects developed to celebrate this themed year and we’re proud of our work with young people as part of it; in Glasgow, RSPB Scotland has been working with Hillhead High School’s eco group, the Queen Bees, to develop a pollinator highway as part of ­Glasgow Wildest, and on the Isle of Skye we have been working alongside primary school pupils to develop family, self-led activities in the grounds of Dunvegan castle.

In Edinburgh, through a partnering with Young Scot, 30 to 40 young people are coming together in June to look at how we can create support for natural spaces and wild places. We’re also offering free entry to our top three family reserves for Young Scot card holders.

The year is providing a stage for young people to be heard at a time when the world is listening and at RSPB Scotland we want to shine the spotlight on what they are achieving for nature. I’m therefore thrilled to announce that the Nature of Scotland Awards, in association with Scottish Natural Heritage, has introduced the new RSPB Young Nature Champion Award, providing an exciting opportunity for young people making a positive impact on nature in Scotland to be celebrated by key members of the conservation community.

If you know of, or are already an inspirational young person (aged 8 to 26), making a valuable contribution to protecting our wildlife and wild spaces, we want to hear all about what is being done.

From research to community projects, social media campaigns to lobbying MSPs, if this sounds like you or someone you know, then submit an application or nomination today.

Furthermore the Nature of Scotland Awards recognise schools that are bringing conservation into their classrooms and nature back to their school grounds through the Youth and Education Award.

Awarded to Cumbernauld ­Living Landscape in 2017, the unique partnership with four high schools helped to develop young people’s skills, confidence and health by ­‘twinning’ them with local wild ­places. The schools used employability, well-being and creativity to inspire people to come together and deliver community action plans.

The Youth and Education Award also honours the contribution youth groups make to nature conservation, so if your group has made a real ­difference for Scotland’s wildlife and habitats, we would love to hear all about what you have achieved.

We are also looking for applications across our other award categories from community groups, individuals, businesses, the farming ­community, tourist attractions, ­political campaigners and other organisations working to benefit the environment.

Entry to the awards is free, with ­seven other categories open for applications: Business, Community Initiative, Food & Farming, Innovation, Nature Tourism, Political Advocate of the Year and Sustainable Development.

An evening parliamentary reception will be held in September to unveil the Nature of Scotland Awards shortlist, with successful entrants receiving two tickets to the awards dinner hosted by BBC TV presenter Kate Humble and BBC Scotland’s wildlife expert Euan McIlwraith on Thursday 22 November.

The closing date for the Nature of Scotland Awards 2018 is ­Monday 11 June. You can get more information and submit an ­application at rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland

Kirsty Chalmers, projects and events officer, RSPB Scotland.