Gardens: how can a tree be cross-curricular?

By Rachel Hayward | 10 February 2009
An image of children kneeling beside branches.

© English Heritage

We all know how a museum or historic building can add to a learner’s enjoyment of the curriculum - but the relevance of heritage gardens may seem less obvious.

Heritage gardens round the UK offer an abundance of fresh air and fun, subject-based activities for learners of all key stages. And you can continue with the work back in the classroom.

How about a cross-curricular tree project? In the diverse grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Wakehurst Place, your class can find out how Maths can measure the height of a tree, using an isosceles right-angle triangle. The children can then make this part of a general class tree survey. Imagine telling the class they can shake a tree for minibeasts to observe and record the diversity of life living there?

An image of a branch from a tree with white and pink blossoms.

Trees are such a great resource for cross-curricular learning.
© Culture24

Asking learners to use their five senses to write poetry in the classroom can be so dull but try the same activity outside and adjectives become much more inventive! The class can also look at myths and legends about trees and act them out. These outstanding resources are all offered online and may be suitable for your own locality.

More useful online resources can be found at the Royal Horticulture Society. The Glasshouse, (RHS) Garden Wisley’s virtual tour, is suitable for Science at key stages 3 and 4 and A level Biology.

Trees are just a part of the rich gardens’ curriculum on offer. At English Heritage’s Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire, your class can be Garden Detectives and explore the gardens as a piece of historical evidence by examining the design, plants and evidence left behind by, amongst others, the Victorians. Garden Detectives is part of English Heritage’s extensive schools programme, Discovery Visits. Covering Key Stages 1 and 2 History, Science, Geography, Art and Literacy, its main aims are to help learners develop their historical enquiry and problem-solving skills.

The National Trust also has a wealth of historic gardens. There’s a useful map for locating their green places and the Trust’s Learning and Discovery section of their website has a Schools & Teachers section. This is where you can contact the National Trust Learning team and discuss learning opportunities with them. There are resources available, including online wildlife ideas to download for your school garden.

An image of children drawing on a wall.

© The Alnwick Garden

Indeed, gardens that have programmes aimed at schools are keen want to hear from you about what you’d like on offer and how they can help you develop your classroom work. The Alnwick Garden is a superb example. Contact the Garden's education team to help you build a trip there into your curriculum planning. They have amazing activities for schools , including an exploration of their Poison Garden as part of their drugs awareness and Citizenship programme.

You’ll find detailed information on the gardens’ websites outlining their individual events, learning activities and resources as well as health and safety matters. Of course, you can also search the Culture24 database to find out lots more about gardens near you. For fresh air and fun learning: get into gardens!