A group of environmentally-minded teenagers from Hexham and Morpeth are celebrating after completing a special outdoor education scheme led by Northumberland National Park Authority and receiving the prestigious John Muir Explorer Award.
The group of eight students, seven from King Edward VI High School in Morpeth and one from Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham, are aged between 13 and 15 years old.
They have each achieved the nationally acclaimed John Muir Explorer Award after completing Northumberland National Park’s Ranger-led New Naturalist Education Programme.
The programme is designed to give youngsters with a passion for nature and the environment an opportunity to learn new skills and gain a valuable insight into pursuing a career in the environmental or countryside sectors.
Using different sites throughout the National Park, the group attended 10 sessions over a six month period involving different aspects of natural history from mammals, invertebrates and wildflowers to ancient trees, fungi and river life.
Describing her time on the programme, Georgia Gorbould, a year 11 student at King Edward VI High School in Morpeth, said: “I have always had an interest in wildlife, both close and far from home. I decided to sign up after seeing it advertised.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life. From plants, to birds, to lichens and wax caps, to moths and spiders, I enjoyed every last minute. There was so much I learned and my eyes have truly been opened for perhaps the first time to what’s right in front of me if I should look for it.
“One of my highlights was seeing such a range of creatures on my doorstep, one of the best being a Male Emperor Moth! It was also an amazing opportunity to meet people who had similar interests to me. The programme has not only inspired me, it has captivated my heart and the memories will be cherished forever!”
Northumberland National Park is now on the hunt for another group of enthusiastic young volunteers to enrol on its New Naturalist Programme for 2019.
Shaun Hackett, Northumberland National Park Ranger who leads the programme, said: “The aim of New Naturalists is to offer young people in our region an opportunity to experience different field skills related to exploring and discovering the natural environment.
“We want to inspire a new generation of countryside guardians by helping youngsters to get hands-on exploring the natural environment. The programme covers a variety of species and topics in a range of habitats found within the National Park. I’m very proud of our new graduates and congratulate them on their achievement. The commitment and enthusiasm they brought to the sessions was fantastic.
“All the students got involved, taking part in surveys, practical tasks and learning identification skills on various species including wildflowers, bees, moths, spiders, lichens, fungi and fish. Field skills are an integral part of being a naturalist and opportunities like this give students a head-start when entering higher education or considering a career in this sector.”
The New Naturalist sessions use practical skills to look at basic ecology, survey techniques, species identification, understanding landscapes and protected areas and the role of the National Park, to help students gain a basic level of competency in Naturalist field skills.
The sessions are delivered by experienced Rangers and amateur naturalists and it is hoped that the experience gained will inspire and guide participants in seeking further education in this area of employment. The programme is part of a range of educational activities connected to Northumberland National Park Authority’s Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, which aims to open up the landscapes of the National Park and surrounding areas to encourage people of all ages to explore natural places and enjoy the countryside.
The John Muir Explorer Award is an environmental award that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect, enjoy and care for wild places.
To enrol, please call Rosie Thompson on: 01434 341188.