On a beautiful sunny day in January, Roots for the Future was invited by The Science Learning Partnership to be a part of Frimley Junior school’s STEM day. Frimley school is lucky to have lots of lovely mature trees on their grounds, as well as some younger ones they have planted. So I took each class in years 3 and 4 on a guided tour of all those lovely trees.
We started off sharing something AMAZING we know about trees. The children knew all sorts, from the oxygen-carbon dioxide symbiotic relationship we have with trees to counting rings for how old the tree is. The most amazing thing I personally know about trees, that I like to share at workshops, is that they have been scientifically proven to make us feel better. Trees emit oils called phytonicides and these oils boost our immunity and make us feel better. Being in green spaces make us feel better, the fresh air, the sounds of nature, the beauty – and trees are a huge part of that.
Frimley’s logo has a tree on it. I learnt that the tree represents the beautiful Magnolia tree in the playground, which has its own story, planted there by one of the school’s supporters. We started with the magnolia tree learning that it is ancient species – fossil specimens of magnolia’s have been found to be 20 million years old. They grow large fragrant flowers which could be bowl-shaped or star-shaped, white, pink, purple, green or yellow. They are glorious in the spring.
The photo below is of their Robinia or Locust Tree also in their playground. The bark is really striking, ridged with amazing patterns. It’s a truly sensory tree, lovely to touch. I encouraged the children to touch the bark and to even hug the tree if they felt like it. Hugging trees has been scientifically proven to make us feel better. Hugging a tree increases levels of hormone oxytocin which is the love hormone, and the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which are the happy hormones. When we aren’t able to hug our friends because of social distancing, hugging a tree can help us to feel better and this one is an extremely huggable tree.
The photo below is of one of the groups touching the Tulip Tree, so named because it grows flowers that loosely resemble tulips. They are part of the Magnolia family. In one of the groups, the children spontaneously wrapped their arms around this tree without me even yet mentioning hugging trees. It was quite moving. They were so enthusiastic about getting closer to their trees.
We learnt how to identify trees in the tricky time of winter. Without leaves or buds it can be hard to work out what’s what, but there are ways and means and the children loved being detectives.
We also incorporated lots of silences in the walk so that the children got the chance to listen to the sounds of nature, the birds singing, the wind swaying the tree branches, rustling in the leaves from hidden critters. It was wonderful how keen the pupils were to learn about and immerse themselves into the nature on their doorstep.
For more information about our guided tree walks, get in touch.