Blog: Connecting with nature during lockdown

Published: 19 May 2020

Author: Raj Patel
Blog: Connecting with nature during lockdown

Nature campaigner Raj Patel (CF 2017) finds new ways to reconnect with nature during lockdown.

"Nature connection is a relationship that takes time, effort and cultivation - and with the speed and intensity of modern society, for many people this time has not been available until lockdown" - Raj Patel, Fellow

The benefits of connecting with nature

Research has found that connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised, with an increased sense of meaning and purpose. Numerous studies show that simply sitting looking at trees, and even pictures of trees, reduces anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue.

Research has shown the benefits are maximised if we can spend a total of two hours a week connecting with nature. The more senses we use - not only sight and sound but also smell, feel and taste - the greater the benefits.

Yet busy lives, routines and increased urbanisation have meant that it’s been hard for many people, and especially for children, to experience natural environments on a regular basis.

How to connect with nature at this time

Whilst access to nature will be harder for many people at this time, particularly those who are self-isolating, the paradox of lockdown has been that, for many others, there has been greater opportunity to connect with nature than normal. Unable to work, or working from home, many have been inspired for the first time to explore nature in their neighbourhood as they refocus on their immediate surroundings.

Nature connection is a relationship that takes time, effort and cultivation - and with the speed and intensity of modern society, for many people this time has not been available until lockdown. So why not take some time this week to connect with nature in a new way. 

If you can’t go outside, there are ways you can do this from your own home. Here are three easy ideas:

  1. Read our Old Skills New Ways blog which offers an invitation to stop, take a breath and connect with nature. 
  2. Pay regular visits to a tree near where you live, to see changes to the leaves, blossoms or seeds. Do particular birds visit? Does its bark host lichen, moss or insects?
  3. Open a window to catch the sounds of leaves blowing in the wind, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, or smell the scent of fresh rain. What can you see, hear or smell?

Old Skills New Ways – adapting for lockdown

In September 2018, as a result of my Churchill Fellowship, I began Old Skills New Ways. It is an action research project enabling primary and secondary schoolchildren from a range of backgrounds and abilities to work with master craftspeople, connect with nature, learn new practical skills and develop confidence and self-expression. We set up a series of seasonal, week-long woodcraft camps in local woods over the school year.

We were due to start the next phase of the programme with a new partner school on 20 March, as well open a new exhibition at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing restrictions, this has been put on hold.

Instead, since the beginning of April we have been working with the school to adapt Old Skills New Ways to provide online activities and content to help families, children and teachers still connect with nature at this time.

We have launched a new website  which includes a series of blogs offering nature connection activities for people to undertake during lockdown, and we have created a film of the exhibition at Devon Guild of Craftsmen in which you can experience a virtual tour

In addition we are currently planning and developing a range of online resources, including a series of filmed woodcraft workshops in the woods, involving one teacher, one student and one craftsperson. These videos, filmed at a social distance, will be used to support Design Technology teaching at school and at home. Alongside this, we are producing blogs, podcasts and webinars to encourage schools and home-learners, teachers and parents to interact with nature in new ways.

For our partner schools, a key element of Old Skills New Ways has been the wellbeing outcomes from the project. Teachers have identified an improvement in students’ mental health and increased levels of self-esteem. And both teachers and students reported increased levels of calm and relaxation when walking and working in the woods and a new appreciation and care for nature. We wanted to encourage this to continue during lockdown but in new and safe ways.

Fellows' activities on Covid-19

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