My name is Elsa, I'm 22, and I'm about to set off on a 1000+mile journey from John O'Groats to Land's End, with my two horses, in aid of environmental education.
The funds raised will go towards three key projects in a bid to bring environmental education to the forefront of conversation, and policy, in a time of climate emergency.
- ThoughtBox Education: A non-profit helping millions of young people develop social, emotional and global wellbeing. Visit the site here. And watch Elsa's interview with the founder of ThoughtBox here.
- Kivukoni School Environmental Education Centre: Creating a space for this incredible school in Kenya to carry out its world-class sustainability programme, uniting the community to protect land and sea, and paving the way for other schools around the world to do the same. https://www.kivukoni.co.ke/
- International Environmental Education Festival: Help to create an annual event which will bring together world-leaders in environmental education, to celebrate and bring attention to the incredible work going on, its vital importance in raising a generation of environmentally aware humans, and to find new ways of making this way of educating more main-stream, and accessible for all.
Why ride a horse so far?
I grew up on a small family-run farm in South West Devon, riding horses before I could walk, and always being obsessed with all forms of nature. When I was very small, I was given a beautiful embroidered waistcoat by a close friend, who was mid-way through riding around the world on horseback, and since then I've always dreamt of doing the same thing. In recent years I've worked as a jillaroo in Australia, and ridden for various horseback safari companies across Africa, but I am sure this will be, by far, my toughest adventure yet. Horseback travel is the oldest means of transport, and forces the rider to accept that covering 20 miles in a day, is really good going. I hope that this journey symbolises our need to slow down, in our fast-paced high-tech lives, and simply enjoy the ride.
THE CAUSE: POORLY PLANET = POORLY HUMANS
It was while studying Human Sciences at Durham University that I began to understand the connection between education systems, and the climate crisis; we are now living in an age where children as young as 4 years old are made to take standardised tests, and the mental health statistics in the West are hi-lighting a pandemic of stress, anxiety and depression, most notably amongst students.
During my research, I also began to notice a total lack of emphasis on the natural world in school curriculums, yet somehow, there was still time to be learning in great detail about Henry VIII! I subsequently began interviewing professors, teachers and parents, asking them how they felt about our education system, and whether it needs to change in order to equip us for a healthier, and more sustainable future. The results have been astonishing: "In 30 years of teaching, I've never seen children more stressed" and "It's terrifying how little attention is paid to the climate crisis in education."
Rachel Musson has identified these issues from her 15 years experience as a teacher. She has spent the last 7 years designing and developing ThoughtBox; a non-profit which provides schools with the tools to enhance students' social and emotional wellbeing, while also prioritising the health of the planet. It is based on the principle "we cannot be well if the planet isn't well." The funding will help Rachel to distribute ThoughtBox to more schools around the world, helping to create healthier, happier people and planet.
This year I have been working with Kivukoni school in Kenya, which was founded with environmental education at its core. We have been developing a new programme called the Natural Environmental Appreciation Programme, as we don't believe that environmental education should be all about the climate crisis, but also learning to love and fully appreciate nature. There's some incredible work going on at Kivukoni, with permaculture club, an environmental council, regular beach cleans, and the school itself being 100% powered by the sun. We now need a space where environmental education can be seen in its own right. With the funds raised we hope to build a centre which will house eco-displays, workshops, lessons, and specialists, so that Kivukoni's incredible work can be more thoroughly distributed to both the students, and also the wider community.
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