Inspiring young people to care for the New Forest

Priestlands forest John muir

Published Monday 23 October 2017

Young people today having significantly fewer opportunities for getting outside than the generations before them and spend increasing amounts of time at home online.

To help reverse this trend, the New Forest National Park Authority has introduced the John Muir Award to enthuse and inspire young people about the New Forest and enable them to enjoy, understand and care for the natural environment. Over the last academic year, 16 Year 10 students studying Horticulture and Animal Welfare from Priestlands School in Lymington have been working hard to achieve this award.

The John Muir Award is a national environmental award scheme encouraging people to connect with, enjoy, and care for wild places. They can be done individually, as a family or as a group. Everyone taking part needs to complete four challenges: discover a wild place, explore it, do something to conserve it and then share their experience.

Craig Daters New Forest National Park Authority ranger, said: ‘It has been a pleasure to help inspire a generation. I have enjoyed working with the young people and seeing how well they have risen to the challenge. The school and the students have gained a lot from doing it and I am looking forward to developing it for the next academic year. We would welcome other local groups and educational facilities to get involved and discover their Award.’

Alexandra Jamieson, who teaches Rural Skills at Priestlands School said: ‘Taking part in the John Muir Award has been great fun. The students have been able to explore their local habitat and gain a sense of how the Forest was established and what it was like all those years ago. 

‘They have learnt about the different habitats and what animals live in them. They have been really engaged on their visits with Craig, coming back to class with enthusiastic ideas and a greater understand of the place they live in and how to conserve it.

‘As part of the award you have to share your experience which we did, displaying all the work at the New Forest Show.  We received some fantastic comments from the Show judges about how great the Rhododendron clearing was that the students did as part of the Award.’

The benefits of outdoor learning have been proven; children exposed to nature score higher on concentration, behaviour and observational skills, as well as in education. Research has shown that outdoor activities within nature appear to improve the concentration levels of a child with learning difficulties by 30%, an improvement that extends into the home and classroom. 

Priestlands headmaster Chris Willsher said: ‘The John Muir Award is very adaptable; you can tag it onto any area of the curriculum. It has meant we have worked in partnership with New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington and Pennington Town Council and the local community which is great experience for the students and with them organising and orchestrating the ideas, it has created success for all involved.’

Holly, a student from Priestlands School described her experience: ‘I didn’t know anyone and wouldn’t have talked to them in any other classes, but having to work as a team to get things done helped us all get on. Isabel, a fellow student added: ‘It was really fun and it was so nice to get out of a classroom and learn loads without having to write.’

It is such experiences and connections which can lead to a desire to protect and conserve the natural environment in adulthood. David Attenborough sums it up by his famous saying; ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced.’ 

The John Muir Award has also been achieved by Brockenhurst College students as part of their Uniformed Public Services Diploma. 

To find out about the John Muir Award and watch how Priestlands School achieved theirs, visit


Notes to Photo Editor:

Priestlands students collect their John Muir Award

Notes to Editor:

About the John Muir Award

The John Muir Trust is a charity that was founded in 1983. We believe wild places are essential for the wellbeing of people and wildlife

Our mission

To conserve and protect wild places with their indigenous animals, plants and soils for the benefit of present and future generations

Our vision

A world where wild places are protected, enhanced and valued by and for everyone.

Our inspiration

We take our name and inspiration from John Muir, the Scots-born founder of the modern conservation movement. Muir was passionate about wild places. He explored them, wrote about them and campaigned to protect them.
Like Muir, we believe in protecting wild places – for their own sake, and for the wellbeing of people and wildlife.
Over 25,000 members, supporters and partners contribute to our work. Our activities generate over £1m worth of conservation volunteering each year.


About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

Media Contact

Suzi Shilling, Communications Assistant 
New Forest National Park Authority 
Tel: 01590 646602 

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