Young, Wild and Well

The Belfast Hills Partnership and Ulster Wildlife have joined forces to deliver an exciting new Youth Programme called Wild Youth, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. This project delivers wild wellbeing sessions with 11-25 year olds, in and around the Belfast Hills, using nature as a tool to connect with young people and increase their physical and mental health, incorporating the 5 steps to wellbeing. 

Wild Youth is made up of a number of different projects to get involved in. Read on to find the ones that suit you best…

Programme for Schools

There are 3 levels of potential engagement for schools to choose from, all of which are FREE to participate in:

  1. One off session – A short 2.5 – 3 hour session in the Belfast Hills to get your class active, learning about nature and connecting with the world around them.
  1. Two half day sessions – Two sessions lasting around 2.5 – 3 hours each in the Belfast Hills to get your class active, learning about nature and connecting with the world around them.
  1. Eight half day sessions – Eight sessions around 3 hours each, totalling at least 25 hours of engagement, so each young person would qualify for the John Muir Discovery Award – a nationally recognised certificate; and also the potential of gaining a Wild Youth Silver Award – an award scheme run by the Wild Youth team. These sessions would consist of a tailor-made programme covering the 5 Ways to Wellbeing in depth, and can take place in a variety of locations across the Belfast Hills, and in the school grounds.

Some examples of sessions and activities are below. These can be adapted and tailored to suit your group as needed:

  • Hikes – We lead hikes across the Belfast Hills, with different trails to suit all abilities. As well as being a wonderful form of exercise, there are many mental health and social benefits too from being out and surrounded by nature.

  • Hands on with nature – These sessions are designed to give young people an introduction to the wonderful wildlife they have on their doorstep. Learners can explore and develop a deeper understanding of their local environment whilst gaining skills, developing confidence and even help contribute to a nationwide network of scientific study by reporting their wildlife sightings. The Belfast Hills has a range of different habitats just waiting to be explored.

  • Orienteering & Geocaching – These sessions are basically like giant treasure hunts in the hills and are a great way of developing navigation and map reading skills, whilst also trying to problem solve as the young people try and locate each control or geocache.

  • Team games – big group activities that get everybody involved and active are a fun way of developing team work and communication skills, especially when you add in bit of healthy competition.

  • Practical conservation – Young people can help conserve the natural beauty of the Belfast Hills by assisting with a range of practical conservation tasks at various sites across the hills area. Each task depends on the season and the needs of the site managers. Thorough demonstrations and training will be given for each task by experienced staff, who are also fully qualified first aiders. Tasks include tree planting, scrub removal, wildflower meadow management, coppicing, litter picks etc.

  • Campfire sessions – relax around a campfire as we eat smores and make our own charcoal for some nature inspired drawings (only available to schools participating in 8 sessions).

If you would like to find out more about how you or your group of young people can get involved please email [email protected] or check out the leaflet below…

Programme for Youth Groups

There are 2 levels of potential engagement for youth groups to choose from, both of which are FREE to participate in, and incorporate the 5 ways to wellbeing:

  1. Two linked sessions – Two 2.5 hour sessions in the Belfast Hills to get your group active, learning about nature and connecting with the world around them.
  1. Six linked sessions – Six sessions lasting around 2.5 hours each in the Belfast Hills to get your group active, learning about nature and connecting with the world around them. With this option, groups would be eligible for the Wild Youth Bronze Award – an award scheme run by the Wild Youth team. These sessions would consist of a tailor-made programme covering the 5 Ways to Wellbeing in depth, and can take place in a variety of locations across the Belfast Hills, and in the grounds of the youth group/centre.

If you would like to find out more about how you or your group of young people can get involved in our Youth Group Programme, please email [email protected]

Wild Youth Rangers (Trainee Rangers)

The Wild Youth Rangers programme is aimed at young people aged 18 – 24 who want to gain skills and qualifications that will help them move on to employment or further training. The Rangers will be assisting staff with a range of practical conservation work in the Belfast Hills and surrounding areas. Activities will include tasks such as tree and hedge planting, wildflower meadow creation & management and wildlife surveys etc. Successful candidates will be required to volunteer every Tuesday for 15 weeks over the autumn and winter period.

Applicants don’t need to have any previous. Training is provided, so all abilities and backgrounds are welcome. We are just looking for hardworking and enthusiastic individuals aged 18 – 24 who may be unemployed and looking to gain work experience and increase their employability skills, or who perhaps have been thinking about pursuing a career in the environmental sector, or who just want to work outdoors and do their bit to care for nature.

In return for their hard work and dedication, the Rangers will receive:

  • A nationally recognised John Muir Explorer Award
  • Lantra Qualification (Strimmer and Brushcutter)
  • Belfast Hills Volunteering Award
  • Practical work experience on different environmental and conservation projects
  • Training

The application period starts in late summer every year, so check out our social media pages for up to date information or email [email protected] for more information.

Wild Youth Leaders

Young people who have a particular interest in youth work and environmental education can take part in our Wild Youth Leader programme. This scheme is perfect for those that want to gain skills and qualifications that will help them move on to employment or further training. The Wild Youth Leaders will take part in a 3 day Training Course covering the basics in outdoor learning, leading groups and health & safety – including how to write risk assessments. Following their initial training, Wild Youth Leaders will gain further practical experience by shadowing Wild Youth staff as they deliver environmental education sessions with schools and youth groups in the Belfast Hills. When they feel ready, Wild Youth Leaders will then be invited to co-deliver some activities with young people to build on their experience and confidence in leading outdoor sessions with groups.

The application period will begin later in the year, so check out our social media pages for up to date information or email [email protected] for more information.

Youth Led Projects

Young people often come up with brilliant ideas, and we are keen to give them the chance to develop these into small scale environmental projects of their own. We want to empower the young people that volunteer with us, so they can tell us what should be done to make a positive impact on the environment. This will also allow young people to gain experience in the whole process of a project, from design concept, through to applying for match funding (if needed), managing budgets, timescales, getting people involved etc. with our support along the way. If you’ve got an idea you’d like to develop, or you just want more information, email [email protected]

Wild Youth Awards

Young people who take part in the Wild Youth programme are welcome to apply for the Wild Youth Awards. These were set up to reward the hard work and participation young people will be putting into learning about nature, looking after their local green spaces, and improving their physical and mental wellbeing. There are 4 levels to the Awards based on the level of participation, applicants will be judged by other young people:

  • Bronze – 13+ hours
  • Silver – 25+ hours
  • Gold – 52+ hours
  • Green – a special award for making a significant difference

To find out more about the Wild Youth Awards, email [email protected]

Wild Youth Online

There is an increasing amount of young people who are interested in the environment, but perhaps don’t know where to start in terms of looking for volunteering & training opportunities, ways to help tackle the climate crisis, or even just having a place to chat to other like-minded individuals. Wild Youth Online will hopefully fill that void. The platform this online community will use is still being determined, so check out our social media pages for up to date information or email [email protected] for more information.

Wild Youth Steering Group

The Wild Youth programme is designed to improve the lives of young people, using nature as a tool to increase their physical and mental wellbeing. What better way to find out what’s happening in the lives of young people today, and how we can help, by including them in the inner workings and decision making of the project. So to that effect, the Wild Youth Steering Group is a group of young people who, as the name suggests, will help steer the Wild Youth project, give advice and guidance to staff, assist with social media campaigns and help judge applications and award schemes. If you’d like to find out more about the steering group and potentially get involved email [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.

Check out the short video below, to get a flavour of the Wild Youth programme…

Check out our social media pages to see what we’re up to and for more information…