Barnardo's B-Wild project helping young people back into education

Published on
02 April 2024

Young people struggling to attend school and to develop relationships with their peers are being helped back into education and are learning to open up thanks to a pioneering nature-based project being run by the country’s leading children’s charity.

Since 2020 – and thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund – Barnardo’s Scotland has been implementing its B-Wild project in eight localities across the country. B-Wild, which allows the young people to get out and about in nature and explore what the world has to offer.

It provides greater attachment to nature and increased self and social awareness. More than 800 children and young people aged between one and 24 have been supported to have therapeutic experiences in nature.

Claire Reid, B-Wild Project Co-ordinator at Barnardo’s, said: “One of the referral criteria for B-Wild is low or no attendance at school. We have a lot of young people on the programme that, for a number of reasons, find it difficult to attend school. Also, all participating young people struggle with peer relationships and making friends. The project offers children, young people and families the chance to benefit from outdoor learning, outdoor play and therapeutic practice in nature.

“And the results have been very positive indeed. Many of the young people attending B-Wild sessions have bonded and made friends with others on the programme. Others have very much found their ‘voice’ and developed some really important communication skills. Of course, in this process they have developed a stronger connection to nature and a desire to protect it – something that is more important than ever.”

Claire Reid added: “B-Wild looks different in every service. From supporting expectant parents with wellbeing walks in nature spaces; to messy outdoor play for babies; and from allowing primary children to build confidence as they learn about nature through games, play and exploration; to supporting teenagers to develop bushcraft skills while also building an emotional vocabulary for their experiences.

“B-Wild might be families tree planting in a local green space or parents learning how to connect with their children while rock pooling on the beach. It allows Barnardo’s practitioners to support children, families and young people to build their confidence, have fun, develop relationships with others and a relationship with nature, too.”

B-Wild Project Worker Kenny Fulton outlined an example of how the nature-based work can support the young people with real-life issues. He said: “The young people were engaging in an activity using natural materials and outlines of people to show how different emotions are felt in the body. They chose their own emotions to depict ‘grief’ and ‘scared’.

“All young people were incredibly insightful and engaged. Two young people dug a hole in the area of the heart to show how empty grief feels. Others used prickly leaves around the body to show fear. It was very brave and trusting of the young people to share their feelings and experiences in the group setting.

Young people engaging with B-Wild.
Young people engaging with B-Wild.

“One young person who does not typically talk about emotions at all shared a memory from early childhood of feeling scared. They shared how this memory was traumatic and how they had blocked it out, laying a stick across the head to represent this. This was a very significant moment for this young person as they grew in understanding of themselves and their life experiences.”

And one young person who attended B-Wild sessions added: “I can talk about things when I’m out on one of these trips. I can talk more here than I do with my counsellor. I can look at things about me in nature and I can talk.”

Another young person, Josh*, was able to join a B-Wild group run by our Edinburgh Together service through his school. Josh was not often able to attend school and struggled to make friends or connect with others – his life was all about gaming.

B-Wild project workers reached out to Josh and helped him get used to the woodland he would be learning about through the project. At the end of the programme, he had gone from a young person who didn’t spend any time outdoors to one who was passionate about nature.

Josh’s mum said: “When Josh started B-Wild he didn’t have anything else in his life. He rarely managed school, didn’t have friends and spent most of his time lost in gaming. Through B-Wild he has blossomed. For the first time, he has friends, he looks forward to B-Wild sessions and even talks to me about them when he comes home. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve heard him talk about something other than gaming. He has even bought himself a microscope. I’m so grateful he has had the opportunity to be part of B-Wild with Barnardo’s.”

B-Wild, which takes place in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Inverclyde, Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire (with Fife coming on board later this year), was awarded funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2020. The project was originally due to run until the end of this month, but that has now been extended to March 2025.

Caroline Clark, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “It is wonderful to see the success of the Barnardo’s B-Wild project and to hear first-hand accounts from project workers and participants on the powerful, positive impact it is already having in young lives.

“Supporting greater inclusion, diversity, access and participation in heritage is one of the four investment principles, this project is a great example of why that is important. It is thanks to National Lottery players that we can support this work.”

In the past year, Barnardo’s in Scotland provided essential support to more than 11,500 children, young people, parents and carers through more than 150 specialised community-based services and partnerships across the country. The charity works to ensure that every child has the best possible start in life. To donate, volunteer or fundraise, please visit