Aberdeen Biodiversity Centre presents youngsters with John Muir Awards

Aberdeen Biodiversity Centre presents youngsters with John Muir Awards

A group of young carers were presented with the John Muir Award at the University of Aberdeen yesterday (Monday August 8)

The John Muir Awards scheme is an initiative which aims to get people to connect with nature and appreciate the great outdoors by exploring a wild place.

The Aberdeen Biodiversity Centre, based at the University, has spent the last few weeks working with a group of young carers aged between 10 and 14 years from the VSA Young Carers service, giving them the chance to have fun learning more about the local environment in the arboretum within Cruickshank Botanic Gardens whilst taking measures to protect the wildlife that lives there.

The John Muir Award is broken down into four main themes: Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share and each participant has to complete a four day programme of activities in these categories in order to gain the first level of the award, the ‘Discovery’ Award.

Vicky Ewan, Outdoor Education Officer at the University, said: “The group have undertaken a wide range of activities relating to the themes of the award, for example as part of the discover and explore strands we did a variety of team building and environmental art activities, including an activity where they sat in pairs back to back and took it in turns to describe a part of the arboretum they saw which their partner had to then attempt to draw. We also had a lot of fun working in groups to take turns blindfolding one member of the group and leading them to and from a tree, which they were then challenged to find again. These activities really helped to engage their senses in the natural world around them. We also did some biological surveys including bug counts and air health surveys, and were treated to a bird spotting walk with our in house bird expert, Dr Andrew Whitehouse.

“The real fun began when they got to do some hands on activities as part of the ‘conserve’ strand. The arboretum is now fully equipped to house more residents, as the group made a bespoke ‘bug mansion’ and also a number of bird boxes to be placed in the gardens. We all thoroughly enjoyed sharing our ideas on how to build our shelter each day with a little help from Jennifer Hickling from Aberdeen City Council Ranger Service, who gave us guidance on how to do special knots to keep the tarps in place, as well as showing us how to start a fire which we used to boil water in a kelly kettle so we could enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate after a hard day’s work.

“Our final session saw the group completing the ‘share’ category and we asked those who took part to make a collage of all the photos we have taken along the way, so that they could express in pictures the whole process they have gone through. In keeping with the fact that the whole programme is concerned with nature, we presented them all with their certificates around a campfire in the Cruickshank gardens!”

Sam Allen, Young Carers Support and Development worker at VSA, said: “Taking part in the John Muir Award has been a great opportunity for the group and they have loved taking part in it.  It has given them the chance to get out in nature, enjoy and explore their local environment.  They have had opportunity to build their confidence, try new experiences and gain a sense of achievement through attaining the award.  This will in turn allow them to feel more comfortable to take part in future activities and group work.”

If any other groups are interested in doing the John Muir Award, please contact Vicky at the Biodiversity Centre on 01224 274545 or biodiversity@abdn.ac.uk