The art of listening: bringing educators and young people together for a greener future

Each morning, I take a cuppa onto my balcony and listen to the birds before starting work. What started as a simple way to get a breath of fresh air before switching my mind into homeworking mode has quickly developed into a daily ritual of enjoying the sounds of song filling the neighbourhood. Birdsong rippling over a sleepy street is a very calming way to start a day and never fails to make me curious to know more about our local wildlife.

I’m a big believer in the art of listening – of not just hearing, but of being actively engaged in what those around us are saying. It’s just as powerful a skill as persuasive speaking or the ability to craft a finely-tuned narrative.

SEEd’s Youth Listening Project is a brilliant example of why this matters. SEEd - Sustainability and Environmental Education - acts as a hub to bring together best practice that enables educators and young people to integrate sustainability into how they work, learn and live. Through a five-year ‘Attitudes to Sustainability’ study, the Youth Listening Project aims to find out what young people and adults really understand and feel about sustainability. A recent report shares results from year one of the study and is well worth a read, examining views on key issues and drivers of various aspects of sustainability, as well as asking how young people feel about the future and their ability to make a difference.

Findings from 2019 suggest that young people are aware of the enormity of the issues around sustainability, but are also hopeful; and that they want to learn more about how to make a difference, but do not always feel empowered to do so. This echoes messages from the John Muir Trust and our fundamental belief that everyone should have opportunities to connect with the varied benefits that wild places can offer. Through our work and partnerships, we see many young people are already involved in taking positive action for nature and being a voice for change, but that there is also more to be done.

At its heart, this is why youth engagement and leadership matters; because actively listening to and involving young people leads to more opportunities and more effective ways of ensuring young people feel empowered in the difference that they can make. This is why the John Muir Trust sees value in taking the time to reflect on our approaches, co-design initiatives and engagement with young people – to help us take stock of what’s been working well, and where there is potential to do more.

In recent years, the John Muir Trust has been involved in a broad range of initiatives that help shape our thinking and perspectives, from the national #IWill campaign that champions that power of youth social action to listening to the young trainees that take an active role in partnerships such as Keeping It Wild in London – helping to ensure that nature connection is accessible to all, even in the heart of our biggest urban areas.

During 2018, Scotland’s Youth Biodiversity Panel – ReRoute – produced a recommendations report directed at Scottish Natural Heritage. Seeing that it offered a valuable audit tool for organisations across a range of sectors to take stock of how their work tallies with the expectations of young people and how they engage with youth voices, we responded with a John Muir Trust interpretation.

Two years on, we’ve revisited our response to reflect our work across the UK to inspire and connect young people with wild places – looking back on what we’ve been doing, our ongoing work and partnerships through the John Muir Award, and to look forward to the possibilities ahead. From co-designed youth surveys to short films sharing young people’s views on wild places; from junior ranger programmes to partnerships offering training and leadership opportunities for young people to connect with urban nature – we’re incredibly grateful to the young people who continue to share their passion for wild places with us, and look forward to the exciting times ahead.


Want to know more?

  • Find our updated response to the ReRoute recommendations via our Young People and Nature webpages, along with a blank template for organisations that want to audit their own work.
  • Why not take part in year two of SEEd’s Attitudes to Sustainability survey online, and download the 2018-19 Youth Listening Project report via their website.

And if you too feel the need for a breath of fresh air in these challenging times, why not take a minute to appreciate the small things in your community - grab a cuppa, open a window and listen to what the birds have to say.

Find some top tips on home birding from the John Muir Award team here.

Share this

  • OrganisationSector
  • TypeBlog
  • Category
  • Publish DateMon, 08 Jun 2020
Back to news Back to top