Teaching Trees

Clair Shields – Small Scale Enhancements Scheme Co-ordinator

One of the final projects supported by the LEADER funded Small Scale Enhancements Scheme in the North York Moors has been the Teaching Trees project, run by the Royal Forestry Society. The project encourages teachers to bring children of all ages into managed woodlands, and where possible introduces schools into the woodlands in their own vicinity helping to broaden and consolidate regular classroom work by using woods as outdoor classrooms.  The first session was run at Duncombe Park near Helmsley, where younger children foraged for leaves and seeds, hunted for minibeasts and built bug huts while the older children looked into the management of the woodland and helped to decide which trees should be thinned in a particular part of the wood. As a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Duncombe Park contains some of the best veteran and ancient trees in the National Park. Outside the formal parkland the woodlands are managed for a variety of benefits including timber, sport and landscape, as they have for hundreds of years, and therefore the site offered a great variety of interest for the Teaching Trees Project.

While the majority of the schools involved lie within the North York Moors National Park, an important element of the project was about bringing children from a more urban environment into their National Park to experience the special qualities the Park has to offer including some massive trees.

This is what Teaching Trees education officer Julia Cheetham said about it: “I have been working with a group of eleven and twelve year olds who live on a council estate and very rarely if ever visit a wood. Watching these children experience the different sounds and sights of a wood for the first time was truly magical. They couldn’t get over the true size of a tree and were amazed to find out how old they were.  I think the children taking part in this project are gaining a greater understanding of woodlands, how they are managed and, above all, why we need to look after them.”

Pam Sellar, a teacher at Egton Church of England Primary School in the National Park agreed: “Teaching Trees has had a much bigger impact on the children than I could ever have envisaged. It has made them think very carefully about trees and the impact on their lives. Every morning we have had to spend the first part of the day looking at samples of trees, leaves, fruits and seeds they have collected on their way to school.”

For more info on the Yorkshire based Teaching Trees project – click here.

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