Engaging young people with nature in Scotland

Scottish Members Day 2

Apithanny Bourne is the Youth Engagement Officer for the East Scotland Branch and at the 2015 Scottish Members Day in Battleby, Perth, she gave an inspiring talk about her experiences in engaging young people with nature:

Autumn is here once again, bringing with it arguably the highlight of the BC Scottish events calendar.

The member’s day provides an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones – whilst enjoying some brilliant talks and food. For me, it’s the fresh boost of motivation and inspiration that fuels my work. And this year a chance to guest speak about the importance of youth engagement.

It’s been a busy summer of children’s talks, photo exhibitions and moth trapping up here in Aberdeen. Many families attended our events and I hope they were eager to take part in the Big Butterfly Count as a result. There’s something very special about witnessing a child’s reaction when showing them an elephant hawk moth for the first time. Knowing you may have planted the seed of inspiration required to protect butterflies and moths in years to come.

Child with Elephant Hawk-moth

It’s no surprise that little children love to learn about butterflies and caterpillars – they are naturally very curious. The problem is maintaining that curiosity into secondary school and beyond.

Conducting a student survey has helped me understand more about young attitudes towards nature. Many young adults are simply too busy or don’t know how they can help. It’s important to emphasise that a whole range of talents can be used to aid conservation – it’s not all about science and recording.


When asked to think more about their own abilities, many identified photography, event planning and fundraising as skills they could contribute to Butterfly Conservation.

Surprisingly 70% of respondents had never heard of Butterfly Conservation before and nearly half spent less than an hour a week connecting with nature/the outdoors. They expressed a desire for more frequent ‘hands-on’ activities with defined objectives and tasks. Increasing social media presence is also paramount in connecting with the youth of today.

We’re lucky to have so many brilliant and hard working Scottish members. I hope that by speaking I’ll have convinced some of them to think more about how they might convey their knowledge and passion to the young. So much of the fantastic conservation work going on depends heavily on future generations continuing to care about and protect butterflies as we do.

Apithanny Bourne (East Scotland Branch)