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They just twigged

John Dabell follows pupils round an arboretum with a difference

Within the majestic landscape of Westonbirt National Arboretum in Gloucestershire lies a 600-acre garden of 18,000 trees from around the globe. Once the private property of the opulent Victorian Holford family, Westonbirt has been open to the public since 1956, connecting people with trees through a range of facilities and services. Owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, Westonbirt is a synthesis of recreation, conservation and education.

Looking to extend its use, Ben Oliver, education and interpretation manager, contacted schools and invited them to get involved in new initiatives. One of those who responded was Jenny Kiss, headteacher of Leighterton Primary School, who suggested using maths on a visit to the arboretum.

Ben and Jenny's partnership has created resources that can be used as part of a maths trail or as stand-alone activities. With Ben's background in environmental education and Jenny's knowledge of the national curriculum, a maths trail was created after a day meandering about the arboretum.

For Jenny the aim was to "put maths in a fun context". The trail encourages children and adults to use maths in a pragmatic way and suits all learning styles.

The numeracy activities at Westonbirt help children see the relevance of maths outside the classroom and emphasise the practical application of the subject. In addition, the activities encourage children to work together.

The activities are suitable for key stages 1 and 2 and can be solved on the spot though some can be done later at home or in the classroom. KS1 activities include numberline work, calculating the age of a monkey puzzle tree, measuring the circumference of a cedar of Lebanon, grouping leaves and trees, spotting 2D and 3D shapes and using tally charts.

KS2 activities require wider skills. Children can learn three methods for finding the height of a tree, find how much timber a tree contains, calculate the perimeter and area of a group of trees and learn how to work out the radius, diameter and circumference of wood stools. They can also extend their knowledge of reflective symmetry, weight and density, and data handling. The resources are well thought out and suitable for a range of abilities. The practical nature of these activities will develop their understanding.

Ben and Jenny hope feedback from users will enable them to improve their activities. Visiting schools are well catered for at Westonbirt: activity packs provide detailed information, a map of the site and worksheets.

A pre-visit is recommended and the education team aims to be flexible so a visit is worthwhile for everyone. As Ben says: "It's all about choice, if one school wants something then we aim to provide it."

* Entrance is pound;1 per child, with one free adult per five pupils.

Additional adults pay the seasonal adult entrance fee.

Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QS Email:

Tel: 01666 881211

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