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St Wilfrid’s Primary School - Treemarkable project

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St Wilfrid’s RC Primary Eco team began the Treemarkable project in early 2023. This meant that learning about tree identification had to be done using twigs, bark or other evidence, like beech nut shells. They mapped out where different trees were in the school grounds and enjoyed locating different snippets of evidence and identifying which trees they came from. They also enjoyed playing MEEN’s game 'Life of a Tree' and watched a film about the Wood Wide Web discovering the new science around how trees communicate.

By April the team were absorbed in taking practical action to look after the schools fruit trees. Using compost they had made in school they learnt how to help soil breathe through forking it and where to mulch the ground to help feed the trees. They also learned about the life and work of Wangari Maathia in Kenya and how following colonial deforestation she inspired women to reforest the country.

Having learnt about Wangari Maathai the team then visited Hulme Community Garden Centre and found out children from another school had planted a peace grove of rowan trees in her honour in 2016. They also found out that the trees were in need of care, that the peace grove needed some signage and that a rowan tree in the garden had recently been blown down. In response, the pupils planted a new rowan tree adding to the biodiversity of the garden.

The team continued to learn practical tree care skills in school and explored how to examine  trees for danger signs such as broken branches, dead wood or tree diseases, whilst also learning how to remedy some of the problems.

Given their knowledge and skills the pupils were then invited to be key notes speakers at the MMU Sustainability Fair in June where they delivered an inspiring presentation and expertly took questions from the floor.

The pupils not only enjoyed visiting other stalls at the fair, but they also worked on the MEEN stall running an activity for other visitors by asking them to identify trees from their leaves.

The remaining sessions in the Summer term were focused on more creative activities: the pupils were invited to imagine they were trees and write a letter from the perspective of their favourite tree to humans. Not only did they enjoy sitting out in the sunshine they also wrote some very insightful pieces.

Here is a sample letter:

The final tasks of the Summer were to share their learning firstly they captured some of the knowledge and skills they had learnt from Treemarkable for their Eco board, including creating some leaf rubbings.

They were also tasked with writing the cover story for MEEN’s newsletter Beehive and, with a little editing, the copy was used on the front page.

In the new academic year the project was picked up by the new Eco team with the previous Eco team handing over ideas and recommendations for the new team to work on.

Given that it was Autumn the team learnt to identify trees in their school grounds using fallen leaves before collecting them up and putting them in wooden bins so they could over- Winter and break down into leaf mold.

The pupils also found their favourite trees and gave them hugs, learnt their identities and gave them all a personal name.

However, Autumn was also full of colour and having found some beautiful cherry tree leaves on the way to school and with the pupils collecting more colourful leaves from the school grounds, one session was spent making beautiful leaf mandalas.

At one session the team also noticed how trees act as habitats for small creatures, such as these ladybirds, which had burrowed their way into a split in the wood – and they also noticed that trees have eyes!

As the previous Eco team had recommended the letter writing exercise to the new team they were also keen to engage with it, so using their imaginations they wrote their letters in the voice of their favourite tree to the humans.

At the next session they were introduced to alder ink. This is a natural dye produced by boiling alder tree cones and, using calligraphy pens, they were tasked with copying out a paragraph or two from their letters. The paper they used was recycled from cotton cut-offs from t-shirts produced in India which absorbed the ink well.

Here are samples of their work:

This team also watched the Wood Wide Web film about trees communicating underground and read the story of Wangari Maathai’s life in preparation for visiting Hulme Community Garden Centre.

The aim of the visit was threefold: firstly they would visit the rowan tree planted by the previous pupils and mulch it; secondly they would visit the Wangari Maathai Peace Grove and learn how to look after the trees in the grove and thirdly, although the previous Eco team had chosen the wording for the sign, the new team were tasked with finding a suitable site for the sign.

A MEEN volunteer and a parent joined us for the trip and on arrival the pupils shared their knowledge of Wangari Maathai’s life and work with them. After a quick tour of the site we went to the Peace Grove and divided into two groups, those learning practical tree care skills and those who were asked to plant bulbs in the forest garden area, before everyone swapped jobs. Then altogether we went to clear paths and move leaves onto the soil under and around trees as a mulch.

The team then unveiled and chose the right spot for the rather beautiful sign which will mark the presence of the Wangari Maathai Peace Grove. They then had a well-deserved hot chocolate on a very cold day.

Undoubtedly the enthusiastic Eco team will continue to share their knowledge and experiences with their peers and their community.

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