Ideas for including trees within your school curriculum:
The British Natural History Museum started a three year Urban Tree Survey in the spring of 2011. They have published resources for schools to use to help them participate. There are lots of opportunities to use trees to help cover curriculum areas and to develop problem solving skills. Here are a few ideas that could be developed:
- Identify trees using a branching database. The BNHM website has one.
- Build your own database, either a flat database or a branching one to help with identification;
- Measure the girth of the trees (ask pupils why this information is important);
- Measure the height of the trees (chance to practice scale diagrams, trigonometry, building and calibrating a tree measuring device, etc);
- Photographing trees, leaves, fruit, seed, etc;
- Build a wiki about trees on your learning platform. Students can research the different trees, what the wood is good for, what other creatures like these trees, etc.
- Put the trees onto maps;
- Geotagging (adding map coordinates to photos);
- Make your own map of the school grounds and accurately position trees on it;
- Add trees to Google Maps.
Here are some useful websites on trees:
It is amazing how little space is actually needed to plant some trees and they can make a huge difference to school grounds providing shade from the increasingly hot summer sun, shelter from the wind, they can break up a barren space or disguise an ugly fence. They also provide shelter and a source of food for wildlife. Some trees are better than others and pupils could research which trees they should plant to benefit wildlife most.
For schools that are taking healthy eating seriously then fruit trees are worth considering. Small fruit trees can take up little space and still provide a substantial amount of fruit once they have established themselves.
If you do have an ugly perimeter fence then why not get your pupils / students to plant a hawthorn hedge? They could collect the seed from local trees when they first arrive in the school, by the time they leave the plants should be quite well established and possibly ready for layering (or laying). There are usually local people (even in a city like Leeds) who are able to layer a hedge – a process that makes it thicker lower down to keep livestock in! Hedges are brilliant for wildlife providing a safe corridor for them to travel. They also act as a filter to air pollution and help to reduce sound from nearby roads.
There are a number of organisations who offer free or cheap trees to schools and occasionally there are special tree and seed offers. Local garden centres may also provide trees if you are prepared to provide them with some publicity. And there will always be some parents who would be interested – just ask!
Photos copyright Joe Magnall