Voices of the future September 2023 Update


Mural at Seymour Park

The Reception children at Seymour Park Community Primary School worked with community artist Sam Hull to create a nature-based mural that was painted on two sides of a large container facing the playground for the Reception classes. Mr Johnson, the school’s headteacher, suggested the idea, wanting to involve all Reception children in creating a large collage that speaks to children’s perceptions and imaginings of nature.

Over a period of two weeks, Sam developed a range of activities that included walking out in the nearby park to collect things that the children wanted to use for their artwork. The outdoor walks were followed by series of indoor activities with smaller groups. During these activities, the children were provided with playdough, paint crayons, stickers, white paper bags, among other craft tools. They were also asked to bring their outdoor collectables into the creative assemblage. The activities were buzzing with ideas about different types of creatures and habitats. The children were interested in the idea of building a creature (a bug, insect, worm, bee, butterfly, or a completely imagined one).

Some children spoke about creatures they saw in their immediate environments. Others referenced insects they saw on TV or heard about in fictional stories. Different geographical references were mentioned. Once creatures were modelled or drawn (depending on children’s preferred modalities), many children were interested in the idea of creating homes for their creatures, with suggestions for which areas of the school playground their creatures might like to live. Lots of exciting discussions including temporal references. The mural work was an exciting opportunity to attend to children’s imaginings and to explore what affordances artwork can bring during research assemblages with young children.

Khawla would like to acknowledge the work of Mr Johnson, Sam, the Reception children and the entire Reception teaching team who made this work happen.

The mural looks amazing: truly inspiring, absolutely hopeful.

OTHER PROJECT UPDATES

WP1: Young People Act: Nature / Climate

The resource ‘Young People Act: nature / climate’ is in the final stages of graphic design and will be heading to the printers soon. We are able to get this printed so we hope you can all think as creatively as possible about giving this away – where, when and to who. We also have one academic paper which we will be submitting soon to the Australian Journal of Environmental Education.
Clare presented the WP1 work at the Royal Geography Society conference at the end of August within a session on young people’s activism, coming back with lots of ideas and (unfortunately) Covid.

Ambika has finished her contract with the University of Sheffield and is currently living in Delhi, she still has access to her university email for another six months, and says thank you very much for the card! 

WP 3.3: Seeing the Future of Treescapes through Outdoor Learning

Samyia Ambreen, Khawla Badwan and Kate Pahl met with Helen Grimmett, a primary school teacher educator who works in Essex to start to think about how our work can be developed with teachers on a broader scale. We are grateful to the Chartered College of Teachers for putting us in touch with Helen.

Samyia Ambreen is continuing her work at the Church of England School of the Resurrection in Manchester to explore spirituality with children and young people.

We are also hoping to go back into Blackrod School in Bolton to continue the work with a focus on caring for trees.

In Stretford Grammar we hope to continue our Film Club and do an outdoor screening of the film the film club made in December.

WP3.5: Re-imagining the language of trees: Treescapes and very young children

Abi has been working with Steve Pool with early-year groups over the summer. They developed a series of workshops which worked with materials to explore the world. The final session included and exhibition, music, a teddy bear hunt and drawing on leaves.

Tree Equity Maps

Kate and Simon and colleagues met with the Woodland Trust and discussed their Tree Equity maps which are mapping tree cover in urban areas together with other indices such as income and health outcomes. This work is of great interest to policy makers in Greater Manchester Combined Authority who are interested particularly in young children’s experience of treescapes and health and education outcomes. So we might do a follow on project in this field.

Kate has now joined the Department of English at Man Met and is working with the Centre for Place Writing with David Cooper and this work might develop from that Centre.

Digital Voices of the Future

Simon Carr has led a successful bid for the final round of funding within the UK Treescapes programme. Digital Voices of the Future will translate knowledge gained from co-production of research with children within the main Voices of the Future project into co-designed and co-produced gaming environments that can be situated in and scaled for local to global applications.

The new project takes some of the existing Voices of the Future project team (Khawla Badwan, Simon Carr, Ian Davenport, Johan Siebers) and brings in Su Corcoran (Child, Youth & Education Studies at MMU). The focus of the project will be to work with two games designers (Eleanor Dare, Dylan Yamada-Rice) who specialise in the co-design and production of interactive and immersive games to enable children and young people to visualise, explore and share what future treescapes could look like. By simulating existing and new treescapes within real-world contexts, we can apply knowledge about carbon storage and the other ecosystem services offered by trees arising from VoF into game environments. This will afford children opportunities to world-build and envisage the spaces they would like to inhabit in symbiosis with their treescapes and to experience a simulation of utopian futures that are otherwise challenging to imagine, and even harder to situate themselves within. The potential reach and scope of these games is global, using Roblox and Unity as platforms for development and sharing of games.

A screenshot from an example of a Roblox game world: this one is a fantasy world of forests, but equally, real-world environments, based for example on Google Earth datasets can be imported into Roblox.

To ground this in the real world, our key partners in Digital Voices of the Future are The Mersey Forest, with Susannah Gill and Dave Armson playing a central role in the project. Working with The Mersey Forest team and two schools (Parklands Primary School, Ellesmere Port Catholic High School) we will evaluate how children’s voices can build into a partnership policy leading to future delivery. Co-produced gaming environments representing key treescapes across Cheshire and Merseyside will enable children to contribute to The Mersey Forest Plan, the strategic planning framework for the community forest, which is being refreshed for 2025.Collaboration with DEFRA at the evaluation stage offer the opportunity for this approach to be considered as a model for innovative community engagement in environmental planning and policy making across the UK.

The project hinges around 8 themed encounters within each school (see the table below) which provide the driver and inspirations for the game designs. There will be opportunity for members of the Voices of the Future team to be involved with these, so if you have a particular interest in some of the encounters, do get in touch with Simon.

Some of the datasets collected in WP2: Tree Twinning such as these TLS scans of trees can be re-purposed as assets for both the gaming environments

This is a really exciting project (and quite ambitious!) which will run in parallel with some of our key toolkit and outcome-related activities within Voices of the Future, and hopefully will provide us with another avenue for the transformational work that our projects have generated.

Good luck to Simon and the Team

Publication Plans

We all have publication plans and it would be good to share them in this newsletter.

Kate is planning to write an article for the Research for All Journal on the many different ways to measure a tree. Kate, Steve and Samyia are starting this and it would be great if everyone who wants to can pitch in with a small vignette. Rsearch for all is an open access journal about co-produced and engaged research and this would be a good way of getting our interdisciplinary work out there.

Kate is also putting in a proposal for a book called Forest Literacies which explores the literacies of the forest and the language of trees. She is talking to Bloomsbury Press about this and also Routledge.  Again, let us know if you are interested in being part of this.

Please send ALL publications to Kate and Hala – we need to log them for ResearchFish and also it is good to keep track of what is being published .

Please do remember the acknowledgement line which is: ‘This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council [NE/V021370/1]’.

When you are writing, think about who was there when you were collecting your data. If any of the other teams were present think about

  1. including them as a co-author or
  2. thanking them in the acknowledgements and
  3. sending the article to them to read.

If you do decide to include them as a co-author please give them time to be fully involved and acknowledge that their working practices might be different from yours.

This comes from our Publication Protocol which we developed in our retreats.

TREE OF THE MONTH!

An Ancient Ash coppiced so it is completely hollow. Many of our ancient woodlands have very old trees in them. This is just one of them.

CONFERENCE UPDATES

Samyia Ambreen and Kate Pahl gave a keynote plenary on ‘Methodologies of Hope’ for the ‘Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education’ conference. We argued that children and young people can develop their own methodologies, led by the trees, which are much broader in conceptualising treescapes than the adult-led methodologies. We drew on the interdisciplinary work at Blackrod Primary School to do this.

Peter Kraftl, Johan Siebers, Samyia Ambreen, Kate Pahl, Liz Curtis and Khawla Badwan all gave a talk at the British Educational Research Association conference in Birmingham called: How children grow on trees: Educating for hope in the Treescapes program.

Clare Rishbeth presented the WP1 work at the Royal Geography Society Conference at the end of August within a session on young people’s activism.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Strategy Group Meeting

We are hoping to hold a strategy group in October/November with a focus on impact.  The date will be confirmed and circulated shortly.

UK Treescapes Conference June 2024

The UK Treescapes conference is likely to take place in Edinburgh, in June. Please think about whether you would like to go – Aberdeen people especially!

Timberfest 5th-7th July 2024

We are also thinking of going to Timberfest which is from the 5-7 July and possibly the Tree of Hope research group might run some creative workshops for young people there on the theme of global and transnational attachment to treescapes. Let us know if you are interested in joining the team.

Ambleside Retreat July 2024

We are hoping to go to Ambleside in July! We are currently looking at 15th-19th July 2024 – please put a hold on these dates in your diaries.   More details will follow shortly.

IMPACT

We had a great workshop on Impact on 11th September and we did a lot of scoping of our projects.

There is a lot of information in the ‘Impact Log’ folder that Peter Kraftl has set up in DropBox. It would be good if everyone took a look and add to this.

We plan to revisit this over the coming months and also invite Helen Darby, Impact manager for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Man Met, to come and work with us.

NO COST EXTENSION

We are hoping for a whole project no cost extension of 6 months to allow for WP 2 which has been affected by Long Covid and staffing issues. This will give us some leeway in finishing off the rest of the projects

SEMINAR SERIES

Our Voices of the Future Seminar Series has started up again after the summer break.  This month we hosted Dr Antti Saari.  If you missed it, you can access the recording here:

21st Sept 2023 – Dr Antti Saari

Paradise lost? Dark pedagogy beyond alienation   
Seminar Link

Our October seminar will be held on Thursday 19th October at 10am. We’re delighted to host Dr David Rousell, who will be presenting “Weaving the pluriverse: Children’s encounters with forest communities along Birrarung Marr

To attend this seminar, book your free place on our Eventbrite page.

If you want to be the first to hear about our upcoming seminars, you can follow us on Eventbrite or on Twitter.