There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits to children of engaging with the natural environment (Dillon and Dickie, 2012.) However surveys also indicate the rate at which children are becoming disconnected with the natural environment – particularly amongst those who live in urban areas. This disconnection is likely to be contributing to many of the major issues facing society today including increasing childhood obesity and mental health issues, the struggle to build a sense of place and the need to develop pro-environmental behaviours.
The Natural Environment White Paper (2011) sets out the need to strengthen the connection between people and nature; and gives an explicit call for every child in England to be given the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural environment.
Natural England is keen to better understand the research priorities for supporting children’s access to the natural environment and in this context Natural England was keen to use the data collected through the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey to add further insight.
The MENE survey collects data on adult visits (16+) taken to natural environments, however data on adult visits taken with children is also captured. So Natural England, English Heritage and King’s College London commissioned work to analyse the existing 2009-12 MENE data to identify findings of relevance to the development of policy and practice in play and learning in natural environments, and to inform options for the future development of MENE so that it might better capture data relevant to play and learning in natural environments.
The report should be of interest to those planning and supporting children’s access to the natural environment by providing evidence on the number of visits by adults accompanied by children, the types of places visited, and the broad motivations for and barriers to these visits.