Forestry Fieldwork Resources Launched for Secondary Schools

posted on November 13, 2019

Fieldwork in the Forest, our new forestry fieldwork resources for secondary school geography teachers and pupils launches today.

Fieldwork in the Forest

Fieldwork in the Forest

The resources are the culmination of four years of consultation with geography teachers and effective partnerships, working across England’s education and forestry sectors. The Sylva Foundation, with support from Patsy Wood Trust and Forestry Commission, has produced a new set of free teaching resources and an accompanying film designed for secondary school geography teachers and their pupils. The resources and film encourage and enable educators to use nearby wooded areas and forests with their classes.

Visit the Fieldwork in the Forest webpage

The aims of Fieldwork in the Forest are two-fold:

  1. to support secondary schools to do more fieldwork in England’s woodlands and forests, and;
  2. to increase teaching, learning and understanding of British forestry amongst secondary school-aged people in England.
Fieldwork in the Forest free downloads

Fieldwork in the Forest free downloads. Click on image to view resources

Steve Fowkes, Advisor for Business and Markets, Forestry Commission said:

“The Forestry Skills Forum has been aware for a while that there is a significant gap in understanding and awareness of British forestry and woodland management at secondary school level. This is one of the factors leading to poor uptake of forestry careers in England, and it’s great to see the Sylva Foundation, one of the key partners of the Forum, taking action through the Forestry Skills Action Plan to address this. The Fieldwork in the Forest project goes a long way in bridging this gap and inspiring the next generation of foresters.”

Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation’s Head of Education commented.

“Fieldwork in the Forest is an excellent example of partnership working and collaboration; a strength in all Sylva’s work. Thanks go to the enthusiasm of more than 80 trainee geography PGCE students from the Department of Education, University of Oxford and their tutors who have been willing to try out fieldwork ideas and evaluate them with us over the past four years. Blenheim Estate team and Combe Mill Society have supported the project from the start providing access to a nearby woodland and excellent facilities. Thanks also go to the experts in the Evenlode Catchment Partnership who have provided high-quality input during annual fieldwork training days. We hope geographers will enjoy using these resources as much as we have developing them!”

The fieldwork methodologies and advice sheets can be used in any wooded area or forest to fulfil parts of the geography curriculum fieldwork requirements at GCSE and A-Level in England. These teaching resources may also inspire A-Level pupils to consider forestry related fieldwork for their independent investigations.

Explore the Fieldwork in the Forest resources


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Tree Tools for Schools

posted on June 21, 2018

We were pleased to have been approached by the Woodland Trust for help in developing a new national resource for schools to be called Tree Tools for Schools. The resources are now live on the Woodland Trust website.

Tree Tools for Schools

Tree Tools for Schools

Our team adapted some existing Sylva Foundation education resources to develop the ‘Working with Wood’ activities. The activity worksheets and teachers notes cover five topic areas all linked to subjects areas in the Key Stage 2 Primary School Curriculum:

  • What does wood mean to you? Learn how wood has been used throughout history and how it is used today.
  • Different trees for different needs! Discover the many reasons for planting trees. And find out how a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak!
  • The story of wood: from tree to table! Follow the journey of a tree from the forest to the sawmill and see how it’s transformed into a table.
  • What are broadleaf and conifer trees? Learn about hardwoods and softwoods, and how they are different.
  • The power of planting trees! Find out why we need to plant millions more trees in the UK. And start your own campaign to inspire others!

Visit the Woodland Trust website


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The Sylva Tree Team has landed

posted on January 13, 2017
Sylva Tree Team

The Sylva Tree Team

Hundreds of schoolchildren are poised to visit the Future Forest to help plant trees. Luckily they will be assisted by the Sylva Tree Team.

Name: Sylva Tree Team

Members:  Captain Chainsaw, Bark the Wonder Dog, Professor Nuts, and Sally the Psychic Squirrel

Base:  Tree Team Zone in the Sylva Future Forest

Mission:  caring for trees and forests

Powers:  silviculture

Gear:  super saws, tree gun, book of knowledge

Captain Chainsaw is strong and fearless. She helps trees grow better by pruning their branches. Sometimes she cuts trees down so their timber can be used to build houses or make furniture. Her work in the forest lets sunlight reach the trees, and helps make homes and food for wildlife. In the spring she likes to help Professor Nuts with planting more trees. She loves her steel-capped boots and super saws. Her favourite tree is the cedar.

Bark the Wonder Dog is always busy helping the Sylva Tree Team. His favourite job is digging holes to help Professor Nuts plant more trees. He often carries sticks in his mouth for Captain Chainsaw. When he thinks no one is looking, he sometimes chases Sally Squirrel!

Professor Nuts is a genius. He writes books to help everyone learn about trees and how to look after them. He knows everything about how trees grow, which trees to plant where, and how to protect them from pests and diseases. He invented a tree gun which can plant one thousand trees every hour. He sometimes forgets things, but Bark is always nearby to remind him. His favourite tree is the walnut and he really likes wearing wellington boots.

Sally the Psychic Squirrel is very sparky and lively but often invisible in the treetops. She has special powers and gives the Sylva Tree Team clues to help them see what might happen to forests in the future. This is important because trees take a long time to grow. Her archenemy is Grey Squirrel who threatens her home planet.

Sylva Tree Team poster - click to download

Sylva Tree Team poster – click to download


Download the Sylva Tree Team poster

Visit the Sylva Tree Team webpage


All images copyright © 2017 Mark Hawkins

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Wood Week captivates primary school

posted on November 16, 2016

An innovative week-long programme of outdoor and indoor education about trees, forestry and wood — Wood Week — was developed and tested with one lucky primary school.

Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager Jen Hurst teamed up with Forester Paul Williams, Carpenter Julian Angus and staff at Combe Church of England Primary School to provide children with a week-long programme of activities on the topic of British trees, forestry and wood. This was supported by head teacher Charlie Marshall as part of the school’s new Curiosity, Creativity and Challenge curriculum.

The week kicked off with an assembly on the OneOak Project  which provided the school with inspiration and ideas for their own tree; a Norway Spruce to be felled in the school grounds. On Day Two Paul Williams of Trees and Gardens came into school and ran forestry workshops for the children explaining his work and equipment. Jen worked with children to learn more about Norway Spruce, its biology and value and to estimate the height and age of the tree before its felling. Once felled the children re-measured the tree and watched Paul cross cut the trunk 122 rounds so that each child took one home.

Julian Angus runs his own carpentry business from the Sylva Wood Centre but also works with schools to make wood products.  On Day Three of Wood Week Julian set up a ‘pop up’ wood workshop in the school grounds and gave the Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11 years) the task of making two benches out of Douglas-fir timber. The children were completely hands-on measuring, sawing, hammering, bolting and working as a team. The benches are needed by the school to increase the seating area for outdoor learning. Key Stage 1 children (aged 4-7 years) also enjoyed using tools making tree cookies with hand drills at their Forest School sessions on the same day.

Jen Hurst led classes outside on Day Four with engaging tree identification activities. Learning the names and uses of the trees will enable staff and pupils to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning. On the same day Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) learned how wood was used in the past by building a wattle and daub wall out of hazel and willow as part of their Anglo-Saxon history lesson. In classrooms teachers taught lessons related to Wood Week, including literacy by comparing Norway Spruce and Oak, debated the of felling trees, and produced artwork using materials from trees. These lesson plans, resources, photos, films and activities will be uploaded onto TIMBER! website.

The finale of the week was the branding of 10 logs of Lawson Cypress donated by Blenheim Estate. Julian Angus set up a ‘pop up’ Black Smith forge complete with bellows. Key Stage two children selected the individual iron letters and branded the log poles to spell out the school’s values. Key Stage one children helped shave the bark off the logs with a spokeshave. A final school assembly was held outdoors and the offspring of the OneOak tree, a young oak sapling, was planted to replace the Norway Spruce.

There has been lots of positive feedback from parents and children, one 8 year old said:

“it was the best week of my life!” and many children have expressed an interest in careers in forestry and woodwork.

Charlie Marshall Head Teacher said:

“Schools can focus on the negatives of deforestation so we decided to look at the positive…and learn about the journey of a tree through its life…”


Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst explained the many outcomes from Wood Week:

  • educating young people, teachers and their families about British trees, forestry and wood
  • training and enabling school teachers to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning
  • improving school grounds with benches and sculptures to enable outdoor learning
  • giving young people a genuine hands on experience making products out of wood
  • providing young people with the opportunity to meet professional foresters and carpenters
  • developing new resources for teaching and learning on British trees, forestry and wood that will be available nationally on Sylva’s TIMBER! website. “


If your school is interested in a Wood Week or Julian Angus workshops please contact Jen Hurst


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Bags of Help for Future Forest Education

posted on September 13, 2016
Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco Bags of Help

Sylva Foundation calls for votes to bag a share of £12.5million carrier bag charge fund. The charity is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

The supermarket has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative, which sees grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to environmental and greenspace projects.

Three groups in each of Tesco’s 416 regions have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and this month shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant. Sylva Foundation has been shortlisted for its local region.

Big Future Forest Plot Project

Big Future Forest Plot Project

The Big Future Forest Plot Project will see over 300 children from 10 primary schools local to the Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham choose and plant trees on 10 plots this winter. As the Future Forest grows schools will be offered the opportunity to use it to Forest School sessions and children and their families can visit ‘their’ school plot to see its progress and enjoy the new green space.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO of Sylva Foundation explains:

“We’re so delighted to be chosen as one of the region’s projects to be funded by TESCO Bags of Help. The grant means hundreds of local children can get involved in creating and learning from this wonderful new sustainable woodland. On planting days they’ll get their hands dirty, out in the fresh air, choosing and planting many different species of new trees. And they can come back with their schools and their families for many years to come to see how the Forest grows. This is a project with a long legacy.”

Shoppers visiting Abingdon Extra, Didcot Superstore and Faringdon Metro will be able to vote for Sylva’s project: voting is open from 31st October to 13th November. Customers can cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

This is the second round of the initiative: the first round saw approximately eight million shoppers vote in stores up and down the country earlier this year.

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“The first round of the Bags of Help initiative was a fantastic success.

“In total 1,170 community groups were awarded £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000 – that’s a massive £11.7 million being invested into local projects.

“We are already seeing some great results from groups transforming their own environmental and greenspace areas.

“We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for round two. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s national Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“Bags of Help is giving our communities both the funding and the support to create better, healthier and greener places for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between. They’re all fantastic projects that make a real difference in our neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”

Read the full Press Release



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Workshop in the woods: bringing forest ecology into secondary schools

posted on July 9, 2015

Teachers, woodland owners, and ecologists attended Monday’s half day workshop to help Sylva unlock the potential to use local woodlands and school grounds for ecological fieldwork.

BES workshop forest education July 2015

A group at work during the BES workshop on forest education, July 2015

Sylva’s Jen Hurst provided an overview of recent changes to the secondary school curriculum, together with opportunities for teaching and learning about British forestry and woodlands. Gabriel Hemery led an introduction to forestry field techniques including measuring tree stem diameter and height, and estimating tree canopy cover. Nadia Barsoum from Forest Research introduced a new biodiversity assessment technique. Participants then enthusiastically carried out fieldwork in Little Wittenham Woods which generated many discussions, insights and questions.

The workshop identified opportunities and constraints for secondary schools to carry out ecological field work in local woodlands. A report from the workshop will outline these in addition to recommendations for woodland owners wanting to work with schools and develop education activities. This pilot workshop will inform Sylva’s ongoing education programme as well as those of other forest education providers.
British Ecological Society - Forest Ecology Group
This workshop was made possible by a grant from the British Ecological Society Forest Ecology Group of the BES. Thanks also goes to the Earth Trust for kind permission to work in Little Wittenham Woods and support from their team.

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Willowcroft school create a winter forest

posted on December 9, 2009

A forest of colourful trees

The children in ‘Foxes’ class at Willowcroft Community School, Didcot have been painting and sculpting winter trees. Although the children have not yet seen the OneOak in the winter, they were inspired by the Oak Trees at their Forest School site. One tree in particular stood out as it was silhouetted in the afternoon sun against a wintery sky.

Back in school the children experimented with drawing inks and straws to depict the tree. For the background they used well diluted drawing ink to make the blue and pink of the sky.

Later in the week the children twisted aluminium modelling wire to create three dimensional trees. They then dipped the looped wire in ‘fantasy film’ which quickly hardened to create a beautiful stained glass effect. Even the least confident artists made beautiful trees and were really pleased with their work. They enjoyed themselves so much that they have now gone into ‘production mode’ and are making more trees to sell at our Children’s Christmas Fayre next week. We just hope everyone else likes them as much as we do!

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Combe Mill and Blenheim Forest Trail

posted on November 11, 2009

Children from Bladon Primary enjoyed walking through Blenheim’s forest trail, led by the Education Team of Blenheim Palace.

They saw planted and managed forest, and ancient woodland. They had a colour chart and tried to find every colour on there to show them that the woods weren’t just brown and green.

After the Forest Trail the children visited Combe Mill. There they learnt about pistons and steam, blowing through straws and looking at models the volunteer engineers showed them.

“One of the best bits for us all was when we all had a turn at shaping a poker in the forge. We wore leather aprons, gloves and a helmet and worked with molten iron! Then we were allowed to bring them back to school.”

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Oxfordshire Forest School leader reports on the visits to the tree

posted on November 10, 2009

22nd September to 21st October 2009

Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards reports on the school visits

I have now waved goodbye to the last school group to visit the One Oak from Stonesfield Primary School, packed away the last measuring tape and bug pot and taken a last look around the oak tree until January, when the big felling day will take place. It has all been a wonderful experience and tree-mendous fun! I have met lots of fantastic children who have all been very keen to come out and meet the One Oak tree and I know they all really enjoyed themselves too, especially as we were very lucky with the weather and only had one slightly damp day with Woodstock School and none of the usual Autumnal winds.

The first visit I had was from the local Primary School at Bladon. They could just walk straight up from their school to the woodland, where they were the first to have a go at the activities I had planned for them. We had a beautiful sunny day that day and no coach to get back for, which meant we could take our time exploring around the tree. I also went back into school with the visiting class and got some very useful feedback from the children. So a big thank you to the children and their teacher.

The next visits were classes from Willowcroft School who are all experienced Forest Schoolers and made the most of their time out in the woodland. They also made the very exciting discovery of a very strange looking minibeast, which we still don’t know the name of. Woodfarm School visited three times with their classes and along with Woodstock and Stonesfield schools they all did some very good measuring of the tree and used their senses well to discover more about the tree and the nature in the woodland.

All the activities were popular: some really enjoyed finding minibeasts; some found the scientific activities very interesting and others enjoyed having some time to reflect and experience the oak tree with their senses. It was amazing how close our measurements with a ‘Human Clinometer’ were to the scientist’s measurements and I am waiting with great anticipation to find out the actual age of the tree to see if we were right with the154 years old that most groups got.

So that is this part of the OneOak project finished and it has been a great privilege to be allowed to work with all the children who have visited and of course the oak tree. For now I will get back to my other exciting job of being a Forest School Leader, but I look forward to the day when we will meet again for the next stage in the oak trees life. Meanwhile I hope the children have lots more fun finding out about trees and if you have any feedback or work you would like to share then please do send it in. See you…

Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards
Forest School Leader, Oxfordshire Forest School Service

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Can you imagine 5 cubic metres of wood?

posted on November 9, 2009

The children of Bladon Primary read that the oak tree would give us 5 cubic metres of wood, but they didn’t know what a cubic metre was.

So they made one in their hall. All 19 of them could stand inside it!

Then, using the whole class and metre sticks, they made the 5 cubic metres. This is how much wood we expect to be able to use from the OneOak tree once that it is felled.

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