Adders are amazing – Chichester lecturer helps change attitudes to British snakes
The UK’s only venomous snake is the subject of a new study which aims to improve attitudes towards adders for the youngest members of society. University of Chichester lecturer John Kelly has co-authored an article in the journal People and Nature, writing about recent work with schools to better understand children’s attitudes towards the snakes.
Adders – the UK’s only venomous snake – are experiencing rapid population decline in many parts of the UK. Alongside habitat loss and fragmentation, persecution of this snake is likely to be an important reason for this decline.
The project – commissioned by Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) – was part of a wider conservation and outreach project, ‘Adders are Amazing!’. It explored whether attitudes towards adders and nature could be improved using art and science activities with children aged 8-11 from West Wales.
John, who teaches about the natural environments and health as part of his lecture programme for the outdoor and adventure education degree, said: “Society’s current widespread decline in connectedness to nature is something we need to recognise and act upon across all sectors of education. Our research showed that an approach combining a range of fun activities can improve young children’s feelings towards nature, even when a species of venomous snake, often seen as a danger in the outdoor environment, was the main topic.”
The ARG UK Project Officer Dr Sam Kelly said: “Our workshops provided children with accurate information around adders so they felt more confident about the species, but also spoke to them in a more heart-felt way through engaging with the arts. The children responded with genuine excitement, positivity, and a wish to protect this oft-maligned species, which was fantastic. I hope we can extend this approach across the UK to help children become better connected to their natural world, at a time when we need to help protect our ‘unpopular’ species and their habitats which are so threatened.”
The ‘Adders are Amazing!’ project was funded by the Arwain Sir Benfro PLANED Leader Fund as a part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. Additional financial support was provided by Biodiversity Solutions, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Langdon Ecology and the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership.