Co-Design and Conservation: A Case-Study from RSPB Biosecurity for LIFE in Coastal and Island Primary Schools and Youth Groups Across Scotland
Here, we reflect on the process and outcomes of co-designing seabird conservation resources with upper-primary-aged pupils. We focused on biosecurity (protecting wildlife from potential invasive species), an intellectually and emotionally complex topic which includes many social issues alongside ecology. Public awareness and understanding are vital to biosecurity, and we aimed to engage schools and pupils as key stakeholders in their local biodiversity and its protection. Using a youth work approach, we facilitated pupils’ direction of their own learning practices and the development of creative, reflective, and evaluative skills. Through co-design, we developed more relevant, desired, and empowering resources than conventional methods could produce. From April to June 2021, we worked with 106 young people across Scotland as part of the Biosecurity for LIFE project, raising local awareness of biosecurity as part of the project’s wider conservation aims. Teachers and pupils flourished within the six-week programme and its co-design framework, developing outstanding work and quickly adapting to a novel topic. Teachers saw positive outcomes throughout the Curriculum for Excellence and Learning for Sustainability, much of which came from pupils’ generative and collaborative working. The resources produced met the needs of staff and students, including local specificity, flexibility, and Gaelic translation, with pupils’ outputs emphasising creative and active ways of learning. We see co-design as a useful and empowering model for conservation education, helping teachers to navigate demanding curricula and pupils to direct their own learning, find their voice, and cover issues relevant to their own experiences.
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