Voices of the future: Collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine treescapes

Lead Research Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Department Name: Faculty of Education


The future of treescapes belongs to children and young people. Yet there is a lack of interdisciplinary research that explores their engagement with treescapes over time. This project aims to re-imagine future treescapes with children and young people, working with local and national partners including Natural England, Forest Research and the Community Forests and Scottish stakeholders. We will identify opportunities and barriers to treescape expansion and pilot innovative child and youth-focused pathways to realising this goal. We will create curricula material which will be disseminated with the support of our project partners, Early Childhood Outdoors and the Chartered College of Teachers.

The aim of this project is to integrate children and young people's knowledge, experiences, and hopes with scientific knowledge of how trees adapt to and mitigate climate change in order to co-produce new approaches to creating and caring for resilient treescapes that benefit the environment and society. Drawing on interdisciplinary approaches and in collaboration with stakeholders, the team will produce a 'lexicon of experience' that captures the ecological identities of children and young people. An audit of existing activity in the field of activism and treescapes, with a particular focus on marginalised groups, will inform the project. In particular, the project will produce new material for use by practitioners, educators and policy makers that will inform future treescape planting and will be rolled out nationally, with the help of our project partners. Novel methods for assessing carbon storage in trees and soil will inform a 'tree-twinning' project to enable children and young people to recognise how they can relate to treescapes. Children and young people will draw on the scientific work together with their lived experience to balance their evolving carbon footprint with the changing treescapes they have partnered with. New treescapes will be planted with the help of Community Forests and local authorities. Learning will be enhanced by the scientific project on tree-twinning, embedded within the project, to advance knowledge about the relationship between climate science and urban trees. This research will be carried out with children and young people as co-researchers.

The project will focus on hope as a vital ingredient of future planning and philosophically and practically create a set of actions to look to the future while addressing temporalities, including past archival work on trees. It will work with cohorts of young people across early years, primary, secondary and young people out of school, as well as families and communities, to think about and engage with treescapes, to plan as well as plant new treescapes and to engage in treescape thinking and curricula innovation. Working with Natural England as project partners, a toolkit will be developed to guide this work and a set of resources and outputs to be rolled out nationally that inspire and inform future generations of children and young people to become involved in treescapes, which will re-shape the disciplinary landscape of treescapes research and inform policy and practice. Community forest planners, policy-makers and practitioners will better understand how to engage children and young people in treescapes and how to work with their knowledges to inspire and inform future generations. Innovative approaches to arts and humanities, environmental science and social science will produce a new understanding of how combining disciplines can further treescape research with children and young people. The project will also advance methodological understandings of the relationship between children and young people and treescapes with a focus on co-production and attending to lived experience while conducting environmental scientific research. New knowledge in the fields of environmental and social science will create new disciplinary paradigms and concepts.


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