National Lottery support encourages families in Derbyshire to Play Wild

RSPB research stock 504x257 "Helping to support local organisations in gathering meaningful data is a great way to share our expertise" Fiona Holland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Date posted: 19 April 2017

A project called Play Wild, which will encourage families in Derbyshire to embrace the outdoors, has been made possible thanks to support from National Lottery players.

Thanks to a grant of £36,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Play Wild launched in March 2017, to encourage families from urban areas across the county to use green spaces for informal play.

The project came about after research showed that many parents, especially in towns and cities, don’t take their children to wild places (such as fields and woods); often because they didn’t know about them, or because they weren’t confident about knowing what they could do there.

Play Wild events hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and their partner organisations, will focus on helping families in deprived areas in Chesterfield, Ilkeston and Derby with children under five – an age group reported as being underserved by suitable events in Derbyshire. Local children will also help to develop a Play Wild logo, which will be used to signpost areas where imaginative outdoor play is encouraged.

As part of the Play Wild project the University of Derby has received a £5,000 grant to measure the impact of the intervention and train the delivery staff in data collection. The project will be headed up by Dr Caroline Harvey, Lecturer in Psychology, and Dr Fiona Holland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, who will lead on the evaluation of the project.

Dr Harvey and Dr Holland have developed a survey tool that will capture the participants’ confidence and intention to engage in nature-based activities before and after the sessions, and the adults’ levels of nature connectedness, a measure which has been shown to be linked with health. 

The researchers’ survey will be given to the participants before their first and after their second Play Wild session. The University will lead on analysing the data and writing up a report for the partners and the Heritage Lottery Fund at the conclusion of the project.

Fiona Holland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this project and value the applied nature of this project. Helping to support local organisations in gathering meaningful data is a great way to share our expertise and we are hoping the survey we have developed with the partners will be useful for them in the future. Families targeted had previously recognised barriers to playing outside with their children - they didn’t know where to find local green space, or what to do with their kids if they were there.”

The partners in the Play Wild project are: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Eastern Moors Partnership, Natural England, National Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, University of Derby and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Between them they will provide 53 wild play events across the region between June and November. Urban areas targeted by the partners will also include Sheffield, Nottingham, Chesterfield, outer Manchester and Leek. If successful, Play Wild may be rolled out across the UK.

Research from the University of Derby has revealed children who are in touch with nature achieve better results in their Year 6 SAT exams. Commissioned by the RSPB, a group of psychologists at the University undertook a project measuring primary school children’s connection to nature, their pro-environmental behaviours, life satisfaction, health and – for the first time – educational attainment.

The findings revealed that children with a greater connection to nature achieve better test scores, have higher wellbeing and pro-nature behaviours.

Dr Caroline Harvey, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, added: “Parents have many demands on their time, are juggling lots of jobs and responsibilities, and this project will help to equip them with more ideas to make the most out of their time outside with their younger children. The value of spending time in nature is well documented, but often gets lost in the busyness of life. This doesn’t mean families need to go far or spend money, it could be as simple as stopping to listen to some birds on a walk, or looking for wildlife in the local play area, finding tracks of animals on a muddy path, or building a hedgehog house in a back garden or yard.”