An alternative approach to urban nature in environmental education at KS2
A dominant feature of environmental education in British schools has been the centrality of the concepts of 'nature' and 'conservation'. Since the late 1970s, two influences have shifted educational attitudes away from purely considering rural nature and conservation, towards a more balanced approach which includes urban nature and conservation. The first influence was of the development of 'urban studies'. The second was the growth of 'Urban Wildlife Groups' (UWGs). U\VGs have influenced teacher approaches to urban nature at KS2 - not by using new ideas adapted to the unique circumstances of urban ecosystems, as the founders of the UWG movement had intended, but by using rurally-based ideas from their own progenitors: the County Wildlife Trusts. It is the contention of this thesis that curriculum planners and teachers at KS2 have been influenced by UWGs, who have selected and promoted concepts from a set of ecological values, theories and practices. The distinction between 'native' and 'alien' plant species on the basis of utility to wildlife is a key concept which permeates UWG theory and practice, and has influenced teachers. The 'alternative' approach provides both the contextual and theoretical underpinnings for the study of urban nature at KS2, through the entity of the Multicultural City Ecosystem and the process of multicultural ecology. It provides a framework for thought and practical reflection amongst education officers in UWGs, curriculum planners and teachers. It accepts dynamism in ecology, especially in cities. It accepts change over different scales of time and space in linking introduced species from overseas to prehistoric and historic cultural, social, economic and other human processes and agencies in cities. In so doing, it provides curriculum planners and teachers with an approach to urban nature at KS2 which is based upon an analysis of real events, historical (and prehistoric), contemporary and future. In essence, it focusses on what is there and why it is there, not on what urban ecologists say should be there. The KS2 text 'People, Plants and Places' (Agyeman (1995)) is an outcome of this approach.