The Open Air Laboratories network, or OPAL, as it quickly became known, was launched in 2007 following a successful application to the Big Lottery Fund
It was the first time that Big Lottery funding on this scale had been awarded to academic institutions. The University of Central Lancashire led by Dr Mark Toogood was responsible for understanding public engagement with OPAL.
The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)network is a nationwide partnership comprising of ten universities and five organisations with grants awarded totalling £14.4 million.
• Over half a million people have participated in the OPAL programme. OPAL activities are carried out by people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, including 10,000 people in ‘hard to reach’ communities. • OPAL opens people’s eyes to the natural world. Nearly half (44%) of OPAL survey participants said that this was the first time that they had carried out a nature survey. 90% of participants have learnt something new. • OPAL has the ability to change people’s behaviour. Almost half (43%) of respondents said OPAL had changed the way they thought about the environment and more than a third (37%) said they will change their behaviour towards it. • In addition to raising environmental awareness, OPAL also improves personal well-being by motivating people to spend time outdoors doing something positive, while connecting with people and nature.