By Liz Barron-Majerik, Scotland Director at Lantra
If COP26 has taught us anything, it is that our young people are more passionate about protecting the environment than ever. To complicate matters, with COVID presenting new additional logistical challenges to school management, the time they have available to research support for new projects is, quite understandably, limited.
However, the pandemic has presented some opportunities too. Without the need to travel (quite) so much, I have more time to do helpful things for others.
Last month I had the pleasure of using my ‘Lantra volunteering day’ to support my local primary school in a couple of different activities. Firstly, and this was probably the least fun but the most useful, I helped them with some funding applications. I had enthusiasm, some experience in this area, and of course my volunteering time, so was ideally placed to support the school in funding applications for STEM equipment, books and outdoor equipment. I am delighted to report that so far they have approval for nearly £5K of funding to buy coding equipment and deliver a number of biodiversity improvements.
Secondly (and this was definitely more fun) I helped the school’s outdoor education lead to take a class foraging for berries and cones in the nearby woods. This was also my son’s class, so helping with this activity had the added bonus of me being ‘a complete embarrassment’ (see pic). This particular activity may only have yielded a couple of baskets of cones and brambles, but I think a few more of the young people will now be able to tell the difference between pine cones and sitka cones, and every little helps!
But I also re-registered as a STEM Ambassador. While we know that technical skills are integral to our sector, this doesn’t yet seem to be common knowledge. Many young people and their career advisors still seem to think it is all just dungarees and shovels. STEM Ambassadors come from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, helping to bring a new and inspiring perspective to STEM lessons and career opportunities.
They volunteer their time, enthusiasm, and experiences to encourage and inspire young people through presentations, mentoring and careers talks. STEM Ambassadors play an essential role in inspiring the next generation, but their support isn't just limited to the classroom. They are often invited to support STEM Clubs or youth and community groups, such as Brownies or Scouts. Forestry Ambassadors help to showcase our exciting and diverse industry to young people.
They receive training and gain access to resources and opportunities, enabling them to work with schools, youth, and community groups.
If you are considering ways in which you can ‘give back’ or help your local school either in a volunteering capacity or through spending some of that ‘travel time’ you now have, please do consider registering as a STEM Ambassador at https://www.stem.org.uk/user/register?type=ambassador
Please also consider ticking the box to share your details with the scheme, so we can connect you with forestry training opportunities and resources!