Inspiring SEND students to interact with nature

27 September 2022


Education Officer Charlie Baker introduces Born Free’s brand new resources which will enable even more children and young people to learn about and interact with the natural world.

An illustration of an elephant taking a dust bath, with symbols explaining the image.

Born Free’s Education Team have been busy working alongside experts at non-profit organisation Autism and Nature to create a brand new set of accessible teaching resources. With Autism and Nature’s insight and contributions, Born Free is proud to finally release its first ever set of resources specifically aimed at children with autism and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Charlie Baker

Charlie Baker, Born Free’s Education Officer said: “Our Education Team strives to make our work as accessible as possible. We believe that everyone, regardless of background or abilities, should be given the opportunity to learn about and therefore care about wildlife and our natural world. By offering a scheme of work that is accessible for those with autism and SEND, we can not only spread our key messages to new audiences, but also enable Born Free to be inclusive of everyone through its work.”

Across two modules of work, students will learn all about African elephants and the threats they face, through interactive art and drama sessions. Teachers will also have the opportunity to plan visits to local woodlands with their students, linking elephants to local species, that will likely encounter at home, or during their woodland visits. By connecting local and global species together, we help to provide a greater context and understanding of the importance of every individual animal and habitat, with the aim that students grow up caring for wild life and natural spaces.

As well as easy-to-use teaching guides, each session is accompanied by beautiful bespoke illustrations and artwork, created by Autism and Nature. Widgit symbols have also been used alongside written text, to help convey meaning to students who may need extra support with their speech and language skills, resulting in a set of resources that can be accessed by SEND students from KS2 all the way to KS4.

David Blakesley, Autism and Nature’s Co-founder and Director, who was actively involved in the project, explained the importance of teaching resources such as these:

“Walking through a bluebell wood in spring offers a calming environment that might help reduce stress and anxiety. Listening to the sublime song of a nightingale, or exploring the different textures of tree bark offer amazing sensory experiences. Sadly, many people with autism and special educational needs and disabilities, especially children, may feel disconnected from the natural landscape. Visits to the countryside may not feature in their everyday lives, and as a consequence they have little understanding and appreciation for, or contact with, nature and the natural world.

“Autism and Nature were delighted to have the opportunity to support this project to engage children with autism with the life of elephants and the pressures these animals face. We were also pleased to have the opportunity to produce educational resources that help Born Free in their efforts to engage children with natural habitats in Britain, and woodland in particular.”

Earlier this year, the resources were piloted in two Special Needs Schools. The included lessons supported a whole range of curriculum-linked work in the schools, including science, geography, art, PHSE and even Forest School sessions. They were well received by teachers and students alike. One teacher commented:

“They helped my students develop their understanding of some of the reasons why elephants are under threat. There was something there for everyone, as some love to colour, whereas others loved to talk about the animals based on the pictures and information”.

The resources are now available to download for free from our website and Born Free’s Times Education Supplement (TES) Shop


An illustration showing a family of elephants.