The success of the first Young Environmental Leaders Programme at Calshot

Oct 3 2022

a group of young people on the beach

Students from Hampshire, Devon and Poland came to Calshot for a thrilling week of environmental education and adventure. The programme was aimed at students between 14 to 17 years old, who were selected through an application process and funded with a partial scholarship from the Pangaea Project. The students immersed themselves into a variety of activities, ranging from problem solving, leadership training, climbing, and sailing, furthering their skills and knowledge of the great outdoors.

Students explored the local waters as they learnt to sail down the Solent and kayak through salt marshes, helping them develop leadership skills and improve their confidence. They also faced their fear of heights, first practicing indoor climbing on The Wall at Calshot, and later climbing across the Jurassic Coast at Dancing Ledge in Swanage. The next expedition took them canoeing down the Beaulieu River to take water samples, measuring salinity while practicing their paddling.

two young people sailing

One of the best experiences this week was going out of my comfort zone and sailing with Katelin. Even though we weren’t very good because it was our first time, and the wind was very strong, we persevered and ended up having a lot of fun! It showed me that you don’t need to feel comfortable/fully in control to have a laugh because capsizing was actually the funniest part of our session.” – Clara (student)

I loved all of the activities but climbing really stood out to me since it gave me the opportunity to conquer my fear of heights. The other members of YELP helped push me through the scary and difficult times.  I believe that I’ve grown as a person and made some truly amazing friends. From nicknames to jokes, they were amazing.  I am so grateful for this incredible opportunity and would 100% recommend it.” - Susie (student)

The programme also involved a set of workshops on sustainability and climate change. As well as marine and freshwater biology fieldwork and lectures, featuring guest speakers from Freshwater Habitats Trust and the National Oceanography Centre. Thea Margetts led the Wilder for Water project through the mystical New Forest National Park, testing the water quality of the streams and investigating the creatures down below. Students also took a journey to the depths of the sea with Dr Jennifer Durden from the National Oceanography Centre, learning about the alien-like creatures from the darkest parts of our oceans through the lens of a deep-sea camera.

young people rock climbing
young people observing water animals

We had good learning opportunities that were fit for all, such as was kayaking through the channels in the salt marsh and learning about the animals that inhabit it. We had guest speakers such as Dr Jennifer Durden from the National Oceanography Centre who came and talked about her findings in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, allowing us an amazing opportunity to ask questions and view the footage from the deep-sea cameras.” - Abi (student)

The programme culminated with a night beneath the stars, spending the night on the roof of the 16th century Calshot Castle. Students spotted constellations while reflecting on the memories they had made. This was an opportunity to reflect upon the history of the Tudors and how the environment has drastically changed, as well as the future of our planet.

On the final day, the participants gave a presentation to their families, practicing their communication and presentation skills, demonstrating their personal growth. The students inspired others to take further action on the world around us, and to think about our environmental impact. They were awarded with a certificate showcasing their achievements.

We are very privileged to be able to ignite the passion for conservation and sustainability in the young people to came to the project. We are certain that they are now more confident to be environmental stewards and that they will be keen to inspire others to be more environmentally conscious. It is fantastic to be able to offer something that the young people can put on their CVs and hopefully aid in kick-starting the careers of their choice.” - Zofia Drapella (Lead Environmental Educator at Calshot Activities Centre)

"Thank you so much – for the time, energy and commitment you must have invested to get this running and the wonderful care you took of Susie while she was with you. We can’t recommend this highly enough and will sing the praises of YELP to everyone we know with teenagers of the right sort of age in the hope that they apply for your 2023 cohort."- Jennie Davies (parent of participant)

Would you like to get involved in this year's improved 12 day programme (in both Calshot and Wales)? Find out more, book or apply for funding.

an environmental experiment