We thought the best way to answer the question of ‘how do you inspire young people to visit and engage with nature?’ would be to ask young people themselves. The (re)Generation Project is therefore centred on the ideas of the young as how best to engage teens and young adults into nature.
In November 2014, young people were invited to share an idea of how to engage 15-25 year olds in nature. During this stage The (re)Generation Project partnered with OzGREEN to guide 12 diverse projects with the support from additional volunteer mentors. The projects included festivals and events, art installations, social media products, school gardens and building the capacity for young people to lead action for the environment. Together, we documented the case studies to discover more about the motivations of young people, what engages them with nature and identify whether young people can be the agents of change in stimulating a movement of love and care for nature.
The second round began in September 2015, and took a different approach focused on storytelling. Storytelling is a widely recognised communication and education tool, where the storyteller provides the viewer with the material to find their own connection rather than telling them what to do. This may have particularly value in environmental communication and education where messages of loss are often delivered and action be demanded, rather than stories of love or connection told.
The (re)Generation Project has been working with 20 young people (14-27 years) from NSW including Newcastle, Merimbula, Bellingen, Port Macquarie and Sydney. With the support from Digital Storytellers, they have helped these young people craft their stories about the people and places that keep them connected to nature, into short films. In five weeks the storytellers wrote, shot and edited their work before they were screened at three public booked out events in Sydney (Riverside Theatre Parramatta and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia). The films were then released online for public viewing and voting for the film that most inspires a connection with nature. For many, this was the first time they had made a film but it was discovered that it does not need to be a highly polished big production to have impact. As long as the story is honest and real with a hero that the viewer can relate to or empathise with, it has the power to open minds and potentially shift perceptions.
To address the disconnect that many young people have with their natural world today, The (re)Generation Project continues to explore what interest these stories generate as they are shared throughout NSW in schools, universities, youth organisations and online, in hope they will reignite a connection with nature amongst young people.
Inspired from the overwhelming level of support and interest youth organisations, government, schools, universities and other nature lovers and creatives, The (re)Generation Project is hoping to run a similar program in 2016 but this time targeting disadvantaged young people. This includes those that are Indigenous, refugees or part of a cultural minority; or those suffering from mental health, addiction, disability, low income or unemployment. Many of these communities experience social fragmentation and marginalisation that leave them with feelings of disempowerment and hopelessness that can lead to increased drug and alcohol abuse, poorer health, education and unemployment. The involvement in the program will hopefully empower these young people to have their voice heard and their story told to create a sense of belonging, youth unity and agency to reach self development; as well as develop their knowledge and skills; in a supportive, fun environment.
Watch this space to see WHAT’S NEXT for 2016!