What if everyone had the opportunity to engage with nature and the outdoors in a meaningful and lasting way? Research has shown that regular contact with nature not only increases knowledge and understanding of the environment but has a range of positive health benefits which can improve quality of life.
Over the last 20 years, Birdlife Malta has prioritised environmental education in its mission towards protecting and conserving birds and their habitats across the Maltese Islands for future generations. Working with all ages and abilities, Birdlife Malta works to connect children, families and communities to nature.
Learning outdoors supports active and healthy lifestyles, encourages a sense of well-being and enhances classroom learning and performance. Furthermore, fulfilling experiences of the outdoors can provide a wealth of personal and social skills and even improve symptoms of ADHD.
Spearheading this work is Birdlife Malta’s nationwide education programme, Dinja Waħda. The initiative, which takes place across both primary and secondary schools in Malta, links classroom learning with the outdoors, building on children’s innate fascination with nature and developing their learning experiences.
Through Dinja Waħda, teachers across Malta and Gozo are provided with an action guide offering activities and resources to help their students learn all about nature and our relationship with it. The points-based activities work to give students an achievable goal to reach gold, silver and bronze awards for active participation which are celebrated every year at an official ceremony.
Fun-filled events for the whole family are held on a monthly basis
Not only do these activities help to harbour a sense of responsibility towards the natural world but they also help to instil values that promote conscious and sustainable living which children can carry with them throughout their adult lives. As the future decision-makers and policy changers, inspiring a passion and understanding of the natural world is so important for ensuring the long-term protection of Malta’s (and the world’s) precious habitats.
Dinja Waħda is committed to ensuring that children have the opportunity to enjoy nature and visiting one of Birdlife Malta’s nature reserves is just one way. Here, children have the opportunity to explore these richly biodiverse sites full of native flora and fauna through nature activities delivered by enthusiastic field teaches, while making interactive syllabus links to classroom topics and building friendships.
The work doesn’t end at the nature reserves! Dinja Waħda also brings the positive impacts of spending time in nature by creating green spaces in school grounds. The Ġonna Dinja Waħda initiative works to transform concrete outdoor areas into natural and biodiverse spaces where children can thrive. These areas have proven to be hugely beneficial in allowing children to have hands-on experience in planting native species, maintaining precious habitats and creating insect homes, helping to inspire a sense of ownership when it comes to caring for and protecting the environment.
The unique and explorative idea of these gardens also allows children to gain and develop their problem-solving skills, creativity and confidence which they can take with them back into the classroom.
Birdlife Malta also ensures it nurtures this desire for nature outside of school hours through its youth activities, including its partnership with local groups including the Malta Girl Guides. Recently, Birdlife Malta worked in partnership with the Guides to create a brand new nature programme, complete with four new activity badges aimed at developing pro-environmental behaviours within the members. The close partnership has also enabled Birdlife Malta to offer workshops and leader training for the Guides to inspire confidence in the delivery of environmentally-focused activities.
The Is-Simar Nature Reserve in particular also provides the ideal setting for Birdlife Malta’s collaborative storytelling sessions for children with the National Literacy Agency. The Magic of Storiessessions help to bring books to life and develop the child’s imagination in a multi-sensory environment.
On top of all this, Birdlife Malta is dedicated to engaging all aspects of the local community with nature – adults and children alike. Fun-filled events for the whole family are held on a monthly basis, from adventurous nature walks and beach clean-ups to sunset boat rides and cultural day trips, all to show the beautiful and natural wonders that the Maltese Islands have to offer.
Nathaniel Attard is Birdlife Malta communications manager.
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