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More reflections on being New to Nature

Katie Underwood
July 4, 2024

New to Nature trainee Katie Underwood reflects on their time as Project Assistant for the Green Schools Revolution programme at SOS-UK and how they were inspired to pursue a career in the environmental sector.

Hi, I am Katie and over the last 12 months I have been working at SOS-UK as a Project Assistant Wilding Schools, this has meant that my primary role has been to assist and develop the Green Schools Revolution: Wilding Schools project. Alongside this main role, I have aided with another area of the Green Schools Revolution project which is Teach the Teacher. Both projects have been rewarding and fun and have allowed me to develop in a range of areas, from running workshops at universities with Teach the Teacher to working alongside various wildlife trusts to produce sessions tailored for many schools.

Katie, delivering a Wilding Plan workshop at a school in Newcastle

The reason I have been working at SOS-UK was as part of Groundwork’s New to Nature programme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. New to Nature provided young people  a competitive wage for 12-months while gaining valuable experience in the environmental sector. Groundwork assisted me in many ways throughout this traineeship and I am grateful they were so hands on during my year, they assisted me with development through a 1 on 1 partnership with a work coach who I met monthly. To a range of broadening knowledge sessions run by a range of partners including the RSPB offering training sessions and the chance to learn new skills. This traineeship provided some notable stand out experiences including the chance to visit the Eden project in the second month of my placement to meet a small number of trainees working at different organisations and the chance to attend a celebration event in April 2024, with all New to Nature trainees.  

Before starting this placement at SOS-UK, I had been working in the education sector. A year of this was spent in a local secondary school in an area of high deprivation and just before this I worked in outreach and recruitment to get more students to study environmental subjects post 16. Therefore, I always knew I wanted to combine my enthusiasm for education alongside my passion for our natural world, in a full-time role in this sector. But getting into the environmental sector proved very challenging so when I heard about New to Nature, I knew I wanted to give applying for this a go. And luckily, I was successful. Before the placement the only goal I really wanted to achieve was to build connections in an environmental role and to truly work out whether this is a sector I want to continue to work in and I am pleased to say that this role really did cement my love for working in this sector and I found a new passion for project based roles, something before this placement I didn’t even know existed!

This placement has allowed me to learn and develop but also to see the challenges of working in the charity sector and something which before working I wasn’t aware of. I am so grateful for New to Nature for allowing my personal development, whether that be through the training budget or breaking barriers, I can now say I am finally getting round to driving lessons with their help, something I didn’t see financially possible for myself before their help! I have furthered my knowledge of GIS with sessions ran by the RSPB, and with New to Nature partners broadened my knowledge of the sector and the types of environmental roles out there for everyone. Within my first few weeks of this placement, I had already completed a carbon literacy training course with SOS-UK, and something which I know now I would feel confident to become a trainer of myself in the future.  

Katie at St Vincent’s school. “St Vincents Wilding Assembly was a real highlight for me, here I am with some others and with the mini pond I brought in for the day and session.”
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of Katie’s journey during her New to Nature placement at SOS-UK. Katie approached her placement with genuine open-mindedness and enthusiasm, getting stuck in to tasks from an early stage. Katie has represented SOS-UK and our work at several large conferences and events (one of which was in her first week on the job!) and gets incredible feedback from partners. Her quality of work and attention to detail has always been perfect and we’re so proud of her for all of the successes she’s had in her role!” Jo Wilkinson, Senior Project Manager for Biodiversity at SOS-UK and Katie’s line manager.

Along this journey I have seen through the projects that I have worked on and picked up a range of new skills which can be transferrable to any role, from my creative abilities on Canva to building rapports with stakeholders. But throughout all of this I have had some standout moments that I am grateful to have delivered and been a part of. One of these was the chance to work with St Vincents Sensory impairment school in Liverpool, many of the children here are partially sighted to full blind and adapting and tailoring a workshop to deliver to them was an immensely rewarding experience and without my role at SOS-UK, this wouldn’t have been possible. I love the chance to complete delivery in my role and I would be lost without the hands-on delivery that Green Schools Revolution: Wilding Schools allows me to complete.  

“The project so far has been really positive. It's made our working group really think about the College grounds and how we can improve them for wildlife and students. Katie was really focused and presented the project and information in an engaging and enthusiastic way that really captured the students attention. Katie not only presented well, but she engaged directly with students as well, discussing their ideas and thoughts and helping structure their conversations” Dr Simon Fox, Deputy Principal, East Norfolk Sixth Form College.

I have been offered a new role with SOS-UK, continuing some of the work I started while on placement. So, as I move on to the next chapter in my career journey, I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given this year and look forward to life beyond New to Nature with the wealth of skills and experiences I now hold!

New to Nature is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation. The programme is delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, Mission Diverse and the Youth Environmental Service.

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