BLOG: Trees for Learning

24 September 2020

Ahead of a call for schools to get in touch about tree planting on their land, Trianna one of the Delivery Officers involved in the project, shares her experiences.

‘'Trees eat climate change'

’Trees eat climate change!’’ was the very loud and very happy shout I got back from Year 3 at a school in Bury. No other answer could have made me smile more. My question? ‘’Why are trees good for us?’’ The audience? A class of very enthusiastic children who were just about to start their first ever tree planting event with City of Trees at their school.

It’s one of many tree planting events we have run over the past 5 years with schools.

I could feel the excitement as they fidgeted and jumped from foot to foot. It may have been the middle of January, but it wasn’t the character-building, northern cold air that had the line of bright multi-coloured bobble hats bobbing around in front of me, something else had their attention this morning. The spades were clearly visible piled up in a wheelbarrow a few meters behind me, flanked by bundles of trees leaning against the side waiting patiently to be chosen.

I learnt long ago to stand either next to or in front of the trees and the spades, as ALL eyes would eagerly stare at the bundles and bodies would slowly lean to one side. A leg would then spring up to balance them as they leaned over even more to ‘get a better look’ creating a potential domino effect with the children either side giggling furiously as they hold on to each other - all the while whispering (very audibly as children do) ‘’what’s that?, is that for us? That one’s mine, my nans got one of them’’. These comments come from primary and secondary students alike!

Linking trees to the curriculum

I am 5 mins into my favourite battle - I have 15 minutes to introduce City of Trees, our goal to plant trees across the whole of Greater Manchester and to draw out the brilliant knowledge I know each and every one of these children has about trees. They may not think it, but they know far more then they ever realised.  Trees impact every part of their day-to-day life:

’Pencils, loo roll, bats, birds, floorboards, boats, cherries, plums, spiders, insects, den building, carbon storage, whole housing frames on estates, art, sculpture, apples, owls…’’ Question after question saw hand after hand shooting up to answer. From different habitats to food and worldwide resources to weekend games, they began to see how trees are all around us even when we are nowhere near a wood.  In 15 minutes, confidence rises, and minds start racing. Even a favourite breakfast spread ‘Nutella’ gets children thinking about how three different trees and one pot of food can have vast geopolitical implications.

Finding the right question is so important as nothing makes learning more engaging then finding the answer by yourself. We know this at City of Trees and we have worked closely with the curriculum to makes sure all our tree planting events educate and enable teachers to delve deeper into many subjects at all key stages.

Outdoor learning has been growing fast among the education community for many years, proving time and time again to engage all abilities without bias. I have found, through hundreds of school events, that being outdoors and being active while learning allows students to focus in a way that the indoor classroom simply cannot replicate.

From lawned landscapes to brimming with biodiversity

I am very proud to be working with schools with City of Trees; helping schools grow from a lawned landscape with little biodiversity into so much more; an active forest school hub, a fruiting woodland, a place to survey wildlife and plants, or their own orchard so children can go scrumping. The feedback has been amazing, and I can’t thank the schools enough.

In a time where student strikes as part of the climate emergency are happening globally, our tree planting sessions provide a unique way for schools to bring the curriculum outside and in a way the children can immediately relate to. Something I believe is truly important now more than ever.

I know that as budgets have tightened over the last few years so schools have had to be creative in keeping proactive. Now we all face personal, social and community restrictions as we continue educating through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our Trees for Learning programme aims to green school grounds and offers free trees and a 'how to plant a tree day'. We provide trees, tools, and the expertise. All we need from you is permission, space to plant and enthusiastic kids! This scheme is open to all schools within Greater Manchester. 

If you want to know any more, please check out www.cityoftrees.org.uk/schools. Or feel free to call or email me for a chat Trianna@cityoftrees.org.uk and Beth@cityoftrees.org.uk | 0161 872 1660.