Two organisations have joined forces to help youngsters discover, explore and conserve the natural environment – and to share their experiences with others.
Communities’ charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) and Carers Association South Tyneside (CAST) will work together in the initiative.
Around 30 eight-to-14-year-olds, including 20 young carers, visited Groundwork’s West Boldon Lodge outdoor environmental education centre to have fun and learn in the great outdoors.
They are among 15,000 children who are expected to learn about the environment and sustainability during visits to the lodge by 2020.
Their six-week programme was based around the John Muir Award, named in honour of the Scots-born explorer and conservationist who helped found the National Parks movement in the USA.
Tom Mower, Community Engagement Co-ordinator for Groundwork STAN, said: “It’s important that young people spend time outdoors.
“Through the John Muir Award, the group have formed strong connections with nature and have developed a respect for the environment. Over only six weeks, I’ve seen such a positive change in them.”
Joshua Richardson, nine, said: “We worked together and increased our confidence by building fires and building shelters.
“My favourite part was making nettle tea, bread, popcorn, chocolate bananas, hot chocolate, jacket potatoes and toasted marshmallows over campfires that we built ourselves.”
Contact West Boldon Lodge on 0191 536 4873, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.westboldonlodge.co.uk
Ross Smith, 10, added: “We discovered lots of wildlife, such as frogs, toads, butterflies, flies, spiders, beetles and birds.
“We explored our environment by making rafts as a science experiment, and enjoyed forest-playing games such as I-spy and team challenges.
“We also helped to conserve the environment by planting willow trees, laying a woodchip path and cleaning up after our activities.”
Nicola Lovett, Young Carers Activity Co-ordinator with CAST said “We work with young carers aged from five to 24, and services we offer include respite activities.
“Issues young carers face include isolation, low academic achievement, poverty, bullying, and they are often victims of abuse and neglect.
“Opportunities such as the John Muir Award provide a safe and fun environment for these young people to learn something new, make friends and just be children.”
West Boldon Lodge operates year-round activities for families, children and adults. Working with schools and youth groups, programmes provide educational and enriching activities for children and young people.