My name is Ellie Micklewright and I’m excited to say that I’m the new Youth Engagement Officer for the Shropshire Ornithological Society! I’m 20 and have just started my second year studying Geography at Oxford University. I work on the Youth Advisory Panel of the British Trust for Ornithology, helping to create the youth engagement strategy and deliver it through recruiting Youth representatives, including Josh Hill and Sian Mercer for Shropshire, as well launching the equipment donation scheme and teacher panel among other things. I’m a proud ambassador for the Cameron Bespolka Trust which is a youth charity aiming to engage young people from all backgrounds in nature. I’m also a trainee bird ringer, working currently towards my C permit with the Shropshire Ringing Group.
I’m really looking forward to working within the SOS to improve the involvement of young people with the organisation as I’m passionate about youth engagement. I believe, as many do, that it is vital for the future of ornithology and the planet that young people are engaged with nature and are passionate to protect it. However, despite popular environmental activism, many young people, as even I’ve experienced myself, feel there are barriers preventing them to getting involved in activities such as birding. When I was growing up, I didn’t often feel confident enough in my bird identification skills to share a lot of sightings or take part in surveys. Young people can also struggle to get the funding for birding equipment such as identification books, binoculars, and scopes. But arguably most of all, being a young birder can sometimes feel like something unpopular and uncool that you don’t want to admit to you friends.
However, birding can be made to feel more accessible to young people with the right support. I was 14 when I first went to the BTO’s Bird Camp for teenagers and this truly changed my perspective and propelled me into the amazing world of birds and nature. I met so many talented, like-minded young naturalists who were so overwhelming passionate and active in their hobby that it was impossible not to be inspired! From their my interest accelerated and I founded my school’s wildlife gardening club which then led me to be named the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2018. I therefore want to try to create, along with my fellow birding friends Josh and Sian mentioned above, an inspiring community of young birders in Shropshire. A safe, inclusive, social space where young people can meet and explore the world of birding.
Therefore, in my role as Youth Engagement Officer I’m first of all hoping to boost youth membership. My first idea which has been passed is that youth/junior membership for SOS will be made free and I strongly believe this will help break down the barriers many young people face and help to build a collective of young birders in Shropshire. Please share this with family, friends, youth groups and schools who you feel might be interested! Looking forward, I’d love to organise youth created content for SOS publications and social media as well as youth-targeted birding walks and skill sessions. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any ideas about improving youth engagement at SOS please don’t hesitate to contact me (email: SOSyoungbirders@shropshirebirds.co.uk).