Teaching with Trees: Outdoors Learning at School Grounds


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Teaching with Trees: Outdoors Learning at School Grounds

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Teaching with Trees: Outdoors Learning at School Grounds

  1. 1. outlook • MAY 2007 groundnotes November 2007 Schoolgrounds-UK Investigate what different types of trees are used for: timber, fruit, other resources. If you have non-native trees in your grounds, where did they originate? Use the trees in your grounds as a starting point for exploring the importance of trees for the environment, whether at a local or a global level. Mathematics Trees are a good starting point for lessons on measurement, approximation and calculation. To estimate the age of trees in your grounds: ● Measure round the trunk of the tree 1.3 m from the ground with a length of string or a soft tape measure. Record the measurement of the girth (circumference) in centimetres. ● A fast-growing tree, such as pine or willow, increases its girth by approximately 3 cm a year. Trees such as oak, ash and beech grow more slowly and increase their girth by about 2 cm a year. ● Divide the girth measurement by 2 or 3 accordingly to determine an Teaching with Trees approximate age. Pupils could consider why such a measure is only approximate, which links to Science work on how plant growth is Trees are an iconic element in our landscape and present in affected by conditions such as light, water nearly every school. This Groundnotes provides an introduction availability and temperature. to using them in the curriculum and advice on planting trees in your grounds. Trees across the curriculum from a book, children can explore them in reality, which will be a more meaningful Trees have always been important to learning experience. Plan each outdoor people which makes them a valuable lesson so that it develops children’s resource across the curriculum. They can investigative skills. Involve them in: be linked to lessons in so many ways that planning the investigation; collecting we hope this Groundnotes will at least help evidence; analysing the data. you start. A useful subject team planning session can be spent looking at your current Science lessons and identifying which could be Trees are a central topic in Science, both inspired by using your outdoors. for learning about how plants grow and for the importance of trees in their Geography environment. If you have trees in your Children could map the trees in your grounds you have fieldwork opportunities school grounds, plotting them onto either literally on your doorstep. If you have a a sketch map of the site or a scale plan. For felled tree, children can count the rings to each tree, children should consider what find out how old it was. The thickness of Other measurements: the purpose of the tree is: is it there for each ring shows what the growing Although some parts of the tree can be attractiveness, as a windbreak, or for conditions were that year. measured accurately, height is likely to be environmental benefit? Rather than learning about food chains beyond reach. But, according to the ability LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES
  2. 2. groundnotes • NOVEMBER 2007 timber for woodwork lessons. You could invite a professional woodworker or chainsaw sculptor in to demonstrate their skills. Ask a local carpenter or sawmill if they can provide samples of different types of wood to allow children to explore the variation between them and discuss how they are suited for different purposes. Try to get examples of wood from the trees you have in your grounds. Consider planting an arboretum in your grounds containing some of the trees whose wood is used commercially. If you have a commercial forest within easy travelling distance, a visit can build links between Technology, Geography, and Business / Enterprise learning and provide a new perspective on the ornamental trees in your grounds. Understanding society Throughout history and across the world, trees have been celebrated through ceremonies and traditions such as tree dressing. Children could research different traditions, and perhaps recreate some in your own grounds. If you have an old tree in your grounds use its life span to create a timeline of events. Children could research changes in clothing, transport or technology throughout the tree’s life. Does the tree pre-date the school? If so, might it be a remnant of a garden, woodland or hedgerow? What evidence can children find in the local area, perhaps by looking at old maps, to support their ideas? Link your own trees to trees in your wider community through studying the history of woods in your area.of the children, it can be estimated using a more permanently by writing withvariety of techniques: waterproof felt-tips onto tiles and● stand a person of known height next to varnishing them before hanging from the tree, and ask children to estimate the branches. how many times taller the tree is;● compare the ratio of the shadow of a Expressive Arts known object (e.g. a metre rule) with Music, art or dance can all be inspired the shadow of a tree; by trees. Explore and celebrate how trees● trigonometry. change through the year and in different weathers. Encourage close observation as the starting point; spend quiet time amongLanguage, literacy and your trees, absorbing the sounds, sightscommunications skills and textures. Trees have long been immortalised inpoetry, sometimes specific ones (perhaps Physical education and developmentthere is one in your area?). Use your trees Existing trees can be built into activityto create tree poetry or stories, you might trails around the grounds to set funwant to start by reading works from physical challenges.other authors. A tree planting campaign not only One nineteenth century Oxfordshire enhances your grounds and improvesman was so inspired by his local beech the environment, but also providestrees, he carved a poem on one, hearty exercise!highlighting his passion for the landscape.Although the poem tree itself died in the Technologyearly 1990s, some of the poem survived on Forestry is a major business and woodthe remaining trunk. We wouldn’t suggest an important construction material. If ayou go this far, but children could hang tree needs to be felled in your grounds,their poems on a tree, either on paper or enquire whether you can have some of theTEACHING WITH TREES
  3. 3. groundnotes • NOVEMBER 2007 Trees in your grounds Which trees? Native trees, particularly those which are local to your school, offer the best wildlife and environmental value. However, consider whether your school grounds offer them the conditions they have evolved to cope with. Many school grounds provide compacted and arid soils, atmospheric pollution and hot microclimates, a long way from the woodland conditions they might be designed for. In these circumstances, you may be better considering non-native species, even though they may have reduced wildlife value. ● Avoid creating slippery surfaces: plant prolific fruiting species (e.g. hybrid hawthorns and rowans) in grass so that fruits don’t fall on pavements. Large leaves can make footway surfaces extremely slippery (e.g. horse chestnut). Flowering species look beautiful in flower but soon leave a carpet of fallen petals so make sure your caretaker is happy about this! ● Trees best avoided near play areas are those that produce poisonous fruits (e.g. female yews and laburnum); or whose fruits may cause stomachache if eaten (e.g. fruiting crab apples). Summer Most established tree festivals take place ● Avoid affecting foundations or in the autumn or spring, but we certainly disrupting surfaces or lightly founded shouldn’t take our trees for granted in the structures such as boundary walls: some summer. The shade from trees is always trees have a high potential to extract welcome on a sunny day, which makes moisture from shrinkable soil (e.g. summer an ideal time to decorate your poplar and willow species); others are notorious for producing suckers andCelebrating trees trees to make them even more inviting. surface roots (e.g. white poplars, false Or why not ask a local chainsaw artist intothroughout the year school to create benches and sculptures acacia and wild cherry). out of tree trunks? ● Trees that cast a dense shade and reachWinter large dimensions (e.g. oaks and The Tree Council’s National Tree beeches) are not suitable for plantingWeek, the annual winter tree planting near property because of the problem offestival and celebration of trees and woods, shading windows and gardens.is held late November / early December ● If vandalism is likely then either use smalleach year. As well as tree planting at sites trees (avoid using stakes or guardsacross England, Wales, Scotland and which draw attention to the plantedNorthern Ireland, National Tree Week trees, using thorny shrubs or bramblesactivities include tree dressing, woodcrafts, to protect them) or use large maturewalks, talks, songs and storytelling. Autumn trees (staked effectively). Starting on the autumn equinoxSpring (considered to be the first day of autumn, Where from? The Tree Council’s Walk in the Woods around 22 September), the Tree Council’s Local suppliers of trees may be listed infestival of walks, talks and other events Seed Gathering Season encourages the Yellow Pages under Nurseries –takes place in town and countryside everyone, particularly schoolchildren and Horticultural or Garden Centres but mostthroughout May. It’s a great month to go families, to gather seeds to grow the trees of these will be suppliers of container-down to the woods or enjoy the trees in a of the future or to enjoy fruit in jams and grown ornamental stock. For native trees inlocal park: spring flowers, birdsong pies. Go for a walk to collect seeds, nuts quantity your best starting point is toand fresh green leaves make them and fruits from local parks and woods or contact the tree officer at your localparticularly inviting. Hold your own events take part in organised events. Seeds Council, who should be able to give youin your school grounds, such as teddy gathered from trees in your grounds or the names of local suppliers.bears’ picnics, treasure hunts, games beyond can be grown to plant in your Organisations such as The Tree Counciland storytelling. grounds for future generations to enjoy. and The Woodland Trust run trees for TEACHING WITH TREES
  4. 4. ,groundnotes • NOVEMBER 2007 that would tear new roots out of the soil. If a tree grows healthily it should produce sufficient new roots in one growing seasonschools schemes so check their website to hold itself upright. Nevertheless it wouldfor availability. be prudent to leave the tree with the ‘prop’ until the beginning of the second growingWhen? season after planting. Then release the tie It is best to place orders as early as and gently push the tree to one side and,possible, by July or August for supply in the provided the soil does not break away fromlate autumn / winter. Lifting of open around the roots, remove the support. Byground stock will take place from October / the time the next autumn storms occurNovember, depending on the species natural anchorage should have developed.concerned and the season. If mild weather Newly planted trees do not requirecontinues late into the autumn, lifting will much ongoing maintenance though theyhave to be delayed as it cannot be done will benefit from watering during the drieruntil cold weather has stopped plant months. This can be a great way ofgrowth and hardened shoots. When encouraging children to care for the trees,placing an order, request delivery by a perhaps by setting up a rota. It can also becertain date if necessary, but be prepared beneficial to keep the mulch topped up asto be flexible as either mild or very wet this ensures the trees don’t have toweather can affect lifting, just as very wet compete for water. If weeds grow throughor cold weather can delay planting. the mulch they can be removed by hand. frosty or cold windy weather. DeciduousPlanting trees are best planted before Christmas; More information Detailed advice on how to plant a tree evergreens are best planted either early Many organisations exist to providecan be found in most gardening books, or late in the season, when their roots information and advice about trees at bothas well as on the websites of organisations are somewhat active. local and national levels.such as The Woodland Trust and The Don’t: The Woodland Trust is the UK’sTree Council. ● Plant trees in close proximity to leading conservation charity dedicated to buildings / structures where they may the protection of our native woodlandSome Dos and Don’ts that might not cause structural damage either directly heritage. Their extensive websitebe covered in general gardening (e.g. boundary walls / paving) or www.woodland-trust.org.uk includesreferences indirectly (tree related subsidence). links to their educational sections: Do: ● Plant under overhead services (e.g. Tree for All www.treeforall.org.uk;● Get the landowner’s permission before electric cables, phone wires) or directly Nature Detectives planting trees. over underground services. www.naturedetectives.org.uk;● Consider the possible nuisance a tree ● Obscure any road sightlines or road Native Tree Shop may cause in a particular situation signs by planting on a boundary www.native-tree-shop.com; and e.g. ultimate size may cause problems close to the road, or obscure street / www.british-trees.com which helps with shade, or touch / knock buildings security lighting. with tree identification. and windows. The Tree Council provides useful ● Damage interesting habitats, for● Remember that the likely range of a information on planting and maintaining example by shading out old grassland, mature broadleaved tree’s root activity trees, as well as their events and grants. streams or ponds. may often equal twice the ultimate www.treecouncil.org.uk ● Assume that because you don’t have any The Forestry Commission is the height of the tree. This can cause open ground, you can’t have any trees. problems on clay based soils where government department responsible for Even without digging up hard surfaces, the protection and expansion of Britain’s foundation collapse may occur as a small trees can be grown in large result of ground shrinkage due to the forests and woodlands. Search for your planters, as long as you take care to nearest Commission-managed wood and extraction of water by tree roots. water them. read about their resources and services for● Plant young trees. Generally the smaller schools at www.forestry.gov.uk a tree when planted, the more readily it Maintenance The Forest Education Initiative becomes established and begins to A tree lifted from a nursery bed will have supports Forest Schools and provides grow. It is not uncommon for a self-set lost up to four-fifths of its root system. learning resources at tree seedling or whip to outgrow and What remains is insufficient to anchor the www.foresteducation.org reach maturity before a well maintained tree securely once it is replanted. A standard. container grown tree has a similar problem● Consider growing your own trees from because its roots are within a package of the seeds of trees growing in or near the compost in which the roots will remain at © This resource was originally grounds. This is not just because it is fun first. The compost will slip in the backfill soil created as part of the Schoolgrounds-UK to start your own tree nursery. Raising membership scheme from the around it. There is, therefore, a need to trees from seed or stock of local origin national school grounds charity provide temporary anchorage by using a helps to ensure the survival of local Learning through Landscapes stake to hold newly planted trees upright operating in Scotland as genetic strains which may be swamped until new roots develop into the Grounds for Learning by the widespread planting of trees of surrounding soil. Only a short stake is A registered charity (No. 803270) non-local or even non-British origin. needed, reaching no more than one-third To find out more about● Plant from October to March or April of the height of the trunk. A simple tie at membership call 01962 845811 but try to avoid planting on days with the top of the stake will reduce the swaying or visit www.ltl.org.ukTEACHING WITH TREES