Lost Words, Kent

Lost Words in the Garden of England is a Kent-wide crowdfunding campaign to raise money to donate a copy of ‘The Lost Words’ to every primary and special school in the county and so reseed the magic of nature in the imaginations of children in our classrooms.

Alongside the book, we will provide materials to support its creative and inspirational use by teachers and students beyond the classroom so that ‘The Lost Words’ can become a catalyst for hands-on reconnection with the natural world.

Lost Words Kent is supported by: Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, AONB Kent Downs and High Weald, Councillors Mike Hill and Roger Gough, Tenterden District National Trust Association, Tenterden and District Museum, Nonington Farms.

Crowdfunder Address: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lostwordskent

The Reason

The Oxford Junior Dictionary reflects children’s everyday language use, as demonstrated by established algorithms.  In 2007, all of the words featured in ‘The Lost Words’ – from “acorn” to “wren” by way of “bluebell” and “kingfisher” were dropped from the dictionary because they weren’t being used enough.  Children aren’t talking about the natural world around them.

‘Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren… all of them gone! The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.’

            Introduction to ‘The Lost Words,’ by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

The aim of ‘The Lost Words’ is to give the words and the objects that they name back to children, in the hope that this will reawaken their passion for the natural word.  Spell-poems by the award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris capture the wondrous combination – the magic – of language and nature.

The Challenge  

In Kent, we need to raise at least £6,100 to spread the magic across the county by giving each of our primary schools and special schools a copy of ‘The Lost Words’ and ‘Exploring the Lost Words’ – an activity and ideas resource written by Eva John and published by the John Muir Trust and potentially touching the lives of children across the county, offering them the chance to connect back to nature and enjoy its proven benefits*.  It could also inspire the new generation to work towards a better future for our planet.  As Chaucer put it centuries ago, ‘Tall oaks from little acorns grow.’

How you can help

Anyone donating any amount to the campaign and/or helping to spread the word will have helped reseed Lost Words in the Garden of England.  Thank you.

Anyone who donates, whether it is £1 or £1,000, is entered into our free prize draw and has a chance to win an original ink painting of a small otter (25cm x 63.5 cm) created especially for the Lost Words Kent campaign by Jackie Morris.

Anyone donating £100 – a wonderful ten books for schools – will be invited to become a named patron of the campaign.

Please donate at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lostwordskent, which goes live on October 15th and runs until November 15th, if you would like to contribute to this county wide campaign to help children in the Garden of England.  Thank you in advance for any support you can offer.

It works

As part of a pilot project a copy of the book was given to primary schools in the heart of Kent and provided a starting point for some inspired teaching.

‘It was a gorgeous, warm day and as we trundled through field after field it became clear to me that there was a wealth of knowledge that certain children could share. We discussed wild flowers, how farmers bale the hay, birdsong we heard, the different crops, the clouds and so much more. My favourite part of the whole day (apart from the children saying that it was their best day ever) was that we just stopped from time to time, sat down where we were and observed what we were in the midst of. We felt the silence of being surrounded by nature and we sketched what we could see/hear/feel. It really did get the children in touch with nature.’

Mrs Thomas, Kent Primary School Teacher

It’s do-able

Similar campaigns are happening – and succeeding – in other parts of the country.  All want to bring the language of nature back to the children of their communities.

The Scottish Crowdfunder raised Scotland £25,076 pounds from 502 supporters in 70 days.

In North London, 80 schools in the borough of Haringey received the book after Crowdfunding raised £1000 in less than four days.

All 81 schools on the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s list for The Lost Words received a copy of the book.

Other campaigns include Dorset, Sheffield, Norfolk, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, York & North Yorkshire, Hull & East Yorkshire.  Let’s give the children of the Garden of England their chance to join this campaign and re-engage with the language of the outdoors, the countryside and nature.

Above and Beyond

If we raise extra funds, we would like to go further by providing a book and resources to secondary schools, as well as to libraries, museums and other learning hubs.  This would enable access for families in school holidays and on weekends and for children who are educated outside mainstream schools; children like Charlie, who is autistic.

‘Nature means peace, calm and solitude on the one hand, and exercise, learning and companionship on the other.  Charlie escapes the un-natural demands of the online existence that so dominates his life and that of his peers.  Exercise takes the form of a cycle to the park where he has developed a strong affinity for the bird life – learning from their breeding cycles and hierarchies.  He has made strong acquaintances with the park wardens…Nature nurtures Charlie.’

Charlie’s Dad


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 * ‘The Impact of Children’s Connection to Nature’.  A Report for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) by Dr Miles Richardson, Prof. David Sheffield, Dr Caroline Harvey & Dominic Petronzi, University of Derby, November 2015