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Voices of the future Winter 2023 Update

Project Updates

WP1: Young People Act: Nature / Climate

This week, we launched the fantastic ‘Young People Act’ resource.  You can read Clare’s blog about the resource and the work behind it here.

The digital version of ‘Young People Act’ is available online here. Alternatively, if you’d like a free printed version, you can request one using this form.

WP 2: Tree Twinning

Over the Spring, Ian, Simon, Peter and Stretford Grammar School pupils laser-scanned some 61 trees in the suburbs of Manchester, including 22in the Maple Family. By analysing the measurements, we can see that the shapes of these trees are different from those of woodland trees. These comparisons to trees in Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire, as scanned by Kim Calders’ group, show that the Manchester urban Sycamore trees have thicker trunks, wider canopies, and higher mass than these woodland trees. This is probably mostly due to environmental factors – these are closely spaced, so they have less room to grow outwards, and compete for light, woodland trees so prioritise height over trunk thickness. They also share protection from the wind with their neighbours, so they have less need for thicker, sturdy trunks.

Differences in tree shapes between Wytham Woods and Manchester urban Maples, and Maples in Moorside Park, Swinton Park.

WP 3.1: Finding and enacting the curriculum in urban and rural treescapes

Pupils in Woodside School, Aberdeen recently sowed a selection of tree seeds(found locally) and have left them outside for the winter. Oak, beech, cherry, sycamore, horse chestnut, and sweet chestnut. How many will germinate..?

WP 3.3: Seeing the Future of Treescapes through Outdoor Learning

Manchester Environmental Education Network (MEEN)  –

Samyia and Kate together with pupils from Stretford Grammar School came to this sharing event. The Stretford pupils shared their film and we discussed tree measuring. A lot of really good contacts were there including the North West National Education Nature Park team and Dave Barlow from Manchester City Council. Dave is the lead officer for Biodiversity and the Growing Manchester’s Trees, City Roots and ward based posters can be found here.

Stretford Film Club and Science Club

Stretford Film Club and Science Club have started up again. In Film club we are making sensory films and exploring the idea of doing a large-scale projection on the school to showcase the work we are doing. The students are very engaged and involved in the project.

School of the Resurrection

In the School of the Resurrection, we are engaged with children in Year 3 and going to have “the tree of hope” story session on Thursday 23rd November. We also have planned a few other activities including story sharing and learning about trees. We focus on tree care as part of children’s spiritual, social and relational lives.

Gorton Libraries

Kate and Samyia are holding a public engagement event with children Year 3 and 4 in Gorton Library. On the 8th Dec, in collaboration with the library staff, Samyia and Kate will work with two groups of children to explore “hopeful stories about future and trees”.

WP 3.4: The Tree of Hope Youth Research Group

The Tree of Hope Youth Research Group organised a visit to Edale in the November half-term break for other young people from asylum-seeking backgrounds living in Manchester. We met with Peaks District park ranger Pete Bush to learn about the Kinder Trespass and the creation of national parks in the UK and then enjoyed a sunny 3.4 mile hike that took us through Edale and across the base of Kinder Scout. The two youth leaders who co-led the trip earned an AQA qualification in workshop facilitation skills for their work.

Communicate 2023

Peter Kraftl presented on behalf of the project and the wider Future of UK Treescapes Programme at the Communicate2023 conference.  The conference is the UK’s leading annual conference for environmental communicators running since 2004, bringing together a diverse group of delegates each year to develop their skills, share best practice and debate latest issues in science communication, nature conservation and engaging people with the natural world. The conference was attended by over 1,000 people in person and online.

Peter presented in a session on translating evidence into action. He talked about three aspects of our work with children and young people: planting trees, measuring trees, and hoping with/for trees. He drew attention to the ways in which our transdisciplinary approach to co-researching with children means that the relationship between ‘evidence’ and ‘action’ is more complex and less linear – a constant and longer-term process of iteration. He also outlined the wider Programme plans for communication over the coming year.

WP 3.4: The Tree of Hope Youth Research Group

The start of November saw the beginning of the active phase for the partner project to Voices of the Future. Digital Voices of the Future is all about the co-design and development of games to enable the voices of children that are less often heard in the ways that we can interact with, value and engage with treescapes.

The project team brings some of the Voices of the Future team (Simon, Khawla, Johan and Ian) and The Mersey Forest (Dave Armson, Susannah Gill) together with Su Corcoran (MMU),Dylan Yamada-Rice and Eleanor Dare (X||dinary Stories). We are working with two schools within The Mersey Forest area: Parklands Community Primary and Nursery School and Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, with a schedule of 8 ‘encounters’ across the coming year. For the ethics process, Dylan produced a superb children’s project information sheet (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Children’s project information sheet, produced by Dylan Yamada-Rice

The first encounters took place in mid-November, and the project team worked with the entire Y5 and Y6 cohort at Parklands School (~60 children) and introduced the project to over 350 children from Y7 and Y8 at Ellesmere Port CHS, from whom we hope to recruit 30 children for the future encounters. The children recruited from Parklands School spent their time coming up with some initial ideas and stories about how they envisage designing a game about trees, including ideas for Giraffes vs the Volcano, with the long-necked camelopards trying to prevent the forests being destroyed by an erupting volcano. As Johan has subsequently observed, these initial ideas already give us insight into the unconscious ways in which the children bring their affective, emotive ideas to the fore, and how Giraffes vs the Volcano presents imagery of anger, joy and destructiveness, and how the children are coming to terms with such emotions. Lots of exciting ideas and enthusiasm to come!

At Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, Simon, Su and Dave gave a series of 8 assemblies to introduce the project and to seek volunteers to join the team. A very different set of responses from these slightly older children, much more engaged with the idea of gaming (especially Roblox), but less considered about how trees fit into the narrative. However, once Dave introduced the children to Frederick (our new project Mascot, Figure 2),the ideas of trees, nuts, seeds (and their cases) as characters sparked considerable  interest, with over 90 consent forms taken away by children.  

Figure 2: Meet Frederick, the Digital Voices mascot! Amazing how a pair of eyes and a fluffy nose can transform the nut case of a sweet chestnut into a character.

Engage Live 2024: Innovating practices

Engage Live 2024  (a festival of public and community engagement)  will be hosted in Bristol on the 1st and 2nd of May 2024 and will be a celebration of excellent engagement practice in all its forms – led by researchers, engagement professionals, communities, charities and organisations acting as agents for societal change. If you have developed creative ways to share and build knowledge; are working to build inclusive research cultures; or creating change from the ground up, then we want to hear from you!

You can share your practice in a variety of ways from interactive workshops; Debates and panel discussions; Story telling; Practice showcase posters or encounters; or a wild card format. It’s up to you.

Find out more and apply by the 19th December at: Engage 2024: Call for Contributions | NCCPE(


Khawla Badwan and Tom Johnson recently co-authored an article for Impact, the journal of the Chartered College of Teaching.  This publication is now available here.

Samyia Ambreen and Kate Pahl are the joint editors of a Bank Street Occasional papers special issue on Treescapes. You can see these here.


UKRI open access policy

UKRI’s new open access requirements for longform publications which will apply from 1st January 2024. You can read about the new policy here.


We have had a lot of brilliant talks about toolkits as invitations, dialogues, encounters and modes of being. We are now going to be trialling them with our partners Mersey Forest. Our question is what does a children’s epistemology of trees look like.

Thoughts welcome!

As we develop toolkits, the team might want to have a look at the Chartered College of Teachers’ CPD site to see how they could get involved:

Woodlands Trust Tree Equity

The latest Tree Equity newsletter can be found here, and may be of interest.


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!

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.

WILD at Manchester Museums

Manchester Museums would like us to take over their Wild Lab and curate a set of programmes, activities and exhibitions. This would be in the Autumn of 2024.  Watch this space!


Our Voices of the Future Seminar Series has continued to host a number of excellent speakers.  If you missed our recent seminars, you can access the recordings here:

21st Sept 2023 – Dr Antti Saari

Paradise lost? Dark pedagogy beyond alienation   
Seminar Link

19th October 2023 – Dr David Rousell

“Weaving the pluriverse: Children’s encounters with forest communities along Birrarung Marr”

Seminar Link

17th November 2023 – : Dr Johan Oldekop

“Multiple Outcomes from Multiple policies: Insights on multidimensional sustainability from policy mixes”

Seminar Link

Our December seminar will be held on Thursday 15th December at 10am. We’re delighted to host Assistant Professor Shipra Suneja, who will be presenting “Ecologies of care: Children’s experiences of growing up in the Indian context”.

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.