British children are increasingly out of touch with the natural world, demonstrating an alarming lack of knowledge when it comes to the seasons and indigenous plants and animals. That is the verdict of a compelling new study which highlights a ‘closeted generation’ for whom outdoor activities such as climbing trees, camping and going on country walks are fast becoming a thing of the past.
The survey of 2,000 children aged eight to 12 years was commissioned by TV channel Eden. The study asked a series of questions relating to the natural environment and the results provide an insight into a generation of youngsters who demonstrate a worrying knowledge-gap when it comes to the natural world.
The report suggests that modern children are spending less time outside than at any other time in history, with almost three quarters of British children (73%) spending more time watching TV in any given week than playing outside. A further 36% of respondents admit that they play outside just once a week or less.
This lack of interaction with the natural world is highlighted by the fact that 21% of the children surveyed had never visited a farm, while one in five (20%) have never climbed a tree. Moreover, 40% have never camped outside in a tent and more than a quarter (28%) admit that they have not been on a country walk within the last 12 months.
The study reveals that the natural knowledge gap is most apparent when it comes to animals and insects. More than half (51%) of British children say that the grey squirrel is native to the UK, and more than a quarter (26%) are unaware of what happens to a bee when it stings you.
There is also widespread confusion when it comes to the seasons with 39% of children believing that birds nest in the autumn and winter and one in ten (10%) believing that cows hibernate in winter. When probed further, nearly half (45%) of the children surveyed were unaware that poisonous snakes live in the UK, while 49% believe that cod is a fresh water fish.
Adrian Wills, Channel Head for Eden, says, “This study shows how far children have become removed from nature and the inspiration that comes from being outdoors. Our Eden Inspires campaign will help children across the UK to re-engage with nature and we hope that by teaming up with Ben Fogle, the next generation will learn to appreciate the excitement of nature on their doorstep.”
The children who were polled, also demonstrated a significant lack of knowledge when it comes to plants. A surprising 18% were unaware that a dock leaf can relieve the sting of a nettle, but a more alarming 17% were unaware that some wild mushrooms can be fatally poisonous.
More than a quarter of the British kids surveyed (26%) could not identify that a horse chestnut tree produces conkers, while more than a fifth (21%) were unable to name the tree that produces an acorn. A further four out of ten (43%) did not know that rubber is produced from trees, a worrying 22% were not aware that trees produce oxygen and more than a third (36%) did not know that the stamen is where pollen is found in a plant.
When asked about the earth, many of the children (45%) were unaware that it takes one day for our planet to rotate once on its axis, and more than a quarter (27%) did not know that the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun creates tides on earth.