Ah, so it’s not just about a single tree!
A child’s comment to us today – ‘I thought it would be just about a tree, but it was much funner,’ kind of sums up, in a nine-year-old way, what has been going on over the last few weeks on our days with schools. We’ve been meeting trees, and having fun.
‘I learnt so much, things I haven’t learnt before.’
‘I think it’s amazing. Will that tree be there for ever?’
Twinning the seven trees of The Long View with seven primary schools has allowed us to share what we have been learning, but has also given us the enjoyment of seeing what the children come up with in response to their own journeys to the trees that we are getting to know so well. We have worked with children from year 2 to year 6 – that’s age 5 to age 11. We’ve seen a huge collection of drawings, writing, poetry and photographs and heard the children’s stories and questions that are born of natural inquisitiveness and wonder.
The journey to a tree is as important for the children as the tree itself. We have walked through woodlands, across open fell, beside rivers and through farmyards. We’ve taken some pretty tough inclines and wandered more casually on wide open tracks. The children have learnt about ‘their’ tree but not in isolation – the context is crucial and each school has recorded their journey in detail.
We have spotted rare carnivorous sundews and startlingly beautiful birdseye primroses, among many other flowers. We have got close to the gnarly bark of hawthorns, inspected new growth on beeches, seen beetles and crickets and listened in to birdsong, from blackbirds, finches and cuckoos to curlews, lapwings and snipe. We’ve talked about the history of the land – from the presence of Vikings and the much older Bronze Age settlements beside the Kentmere Rowan, to Wordsworth’s Daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, which we overlooked from the Glencoyne Pine, and the farming practices that have shaped this part of the country for hundreds of years, and continue to do so. And we’ve discussed the work of organisations such as Natural England and the National Trust, and the concept of national parks: the much bigger picture of working towards a biodiverse, lived in, worked landscape.
The children’s considerations of the trees and the places they walk through have been spiced with thoughts about mythology and legends – like the superstition that bringing hawthorn blossom into a house may bring death in a family – but mostly the school trips have been about observations. What’s special in a place? What are the children inspired by – what do they draw, photograph and write? Their own wonder at a place and their enjoyment of a day’s walk has helped them learn more than they think they might have.
‘Oh! I didn’t know I could do that. I think I’ve written a poem by accident.’
Many children have told us what they have felt in the presence of the trees: an opening of the mind and senses, a feeling of peace, and, on reflection, a bubbling up of questions, a new curiosity. We’ve tried to achieve a balance between the excitement of a journey and the richness of an experience that comes while pausing, being quiet, and simply tuning in.
After our visits back in school we’ve been getting messy with paintbrushes and playing with the collected words and images to create poems. Then we have brought it all together with a video. We’ll be sharing the children’s poetry, collages and videos over the next few weeks.
‘Trees, they matter because we need them for oxygen.
And, well, I like them. They brighten up the world.’
Tom, Age 11
There’s more information on our page The Long View & Schools and we’ll be sharing the videos we have made before too long.