Chester Zoo has been awarded a £532,179 partnership grant from the Westminster Foundation to help young people in the Chester area to create a “greener future”.
The funding will enable the zoo to support “the next generation of conservationists” to learn about conservation, experience the wellbeing benefits of connection to nature, lead positive change in their communities, and broaden their career aspirations.
The new initiative, which will see 4,500 children and young people participate in UK wildlife and conservation-focused education activities, will in particular seek to work with people aged between seven and 25 who face barriers to engaging in learning and who wouldn’t otherwise have regular access to nature or the wellbeing benefits that it provides.
Conservation education experts at the zoo say the five-year partnership with the Westminster Foundation, an independent grant making trust and registered charity
representing the charitable interests of The Duke of Westminster and Grosvenor businesses, will establish an active youth network in the region and leave a self-sustaining community with the knowledge, skills and capabilities to create lasting change.
Charlotte Smith, Director of Conservation Education and Engagement at Chester Zoo, said,
“Right now we’re facing a global biodiversity crisis. Never before has nature been in need of more help. It’s therefore vitally important that we help to foster a connection to nature in children and young people and empower them to make a difference. We must equip the next generation of conservationists with the skills, knowledge and confidence required to ensure a greener, more sustainable and brighter future for our planet, both for people and wildlife.
“From increasing the number of schools we work with, to creating and improving habitats for wildlife in schools grounds, to improving green spaces for community use, to showcasing careers in conservation to a wider talent pool of young people who may not previously have considered such roles, to establishing an active youth network, this grant will make a significant difference to improving nature in Cheshire, and will contribute greatly to the global effort to protect and restore biodiversity.”
The Duke of Westminster, Chair of the Westminster Foundation, added, “We are all custodians of the natural world, but the next generation of conservationists will play an integral role in helping overcome the significant environmental and biodiversity challenges we face today. As is often the case, we can draw hope from the next generation’s ability to inspire change.
“We need to nurture their interest in conservation not only by providing opportunities for them to learn, but by listening and ensuring they have a say in how we move towards a greener future. Chester Zoo’s youth programme could not come at a more important time and I am delighted to continue my family’s longstanding support to the zoo through this new partnership with the Westminster Foundation.”
Education leaders from the zoo have long called for the government to galvanise the power of young people to address the role of the education system in protecting the environment – pushing for educational reform that will equip young people with the skills, tools and opportunities needed for them to help tackle the world’s environmental challenges and live more sustainably.
In recent years the zoo has worked to successfully incorporate conservation themes into the national curriculum across a number of subjects – from science and English to music and drama – all with the aim of encouraging children to address urgent environmental issues.
Meanwhile, since 2020, the zoo’s Youth Board – a group of young professionals and students aged between 18 and 25 who are helping to steer the future direction of the zoo to ensure it’s tackling issues that are most important to the younger generation – have hosted an annual Youth Symposium, giving a voice to young people from across the world of conservation.