This is an account of the visit in January by a Year 8 group from Hillcrest School & Sixth Form Centre to Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses as part of NAEE’s Hugh Kenrick Days bursary scheme.  It’s written by class teacher Mrs G. Sanger.

With the support of the National Association for Environmental Education and a Hugh Kenrick Days bursary, many of our Year 8 students were provided with a fantastic opportunity to visit Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses to consolidate what they have learned whilst studying the Ecosystems topic in geography.

Our students were able to get up close and personal with some of the plants they had studied during lessons and it gave them a real sense of appreciation as to the beauty, fragility and diversity of plant life that exists beyond the classroom.

The tropical and sub-tropical glasshouse talk, delivered by the education team at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, was really engaging! Students learned about the range of plant adaptations that exist in tropical and sub-tropical environments, as well as considering what plants grown in these conditions are used for. Our students were provided the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session, and many of them did!

Students also had the chance to visit the Arid House, where they considered the function and importance of many of the spiky and spiny adaptations they observed. Following a safety brief, students set about discovering how desert plants are adapted to survive against predators and in extreme climatic conditions. Students applied what they learned in a task which required them to think about how the specially-adapted plants might help them to survive if they ever became stranded in the desert!

Following this, students journeyed to the Mediterranean House to take in the sights and smells of the specially adapted plants there. They employed their wildest imagination to design their own fragrance, complete with a name, catchphrase and bottle design linked closely with the plants they liked the smell of.

Back at school, follow-up geography lessons have allowed our students to discuss what they learned about the balance between the human and natural world. Students recently sat an assessment in which they had to design a specially-adapted rainforest animal and many of the students have taken lots of inspiration from what they learned during their visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens!

Some of our students have also considered threats to plant diversity by attending a Debate Club centred on the importance of environmental conservation. Our Gardening Club attendees also have a much wider appreciation of the growing conditions required for certain plant species. Inspired by their visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens, our Gardening Club attendees are currently looking into options for revitalising our resident greenhouse!

Student quotes

“The trip taught me about fish and plants and was very educational.”

“Botanical Gardens was a fantastic experience and there were lots of interesting plants that we got to see, as well as some amazing animals including peacocks.”

“I learnt that it takes a long time for plants to adapt to a complete new environmental and that plants grow on trees to reach sunlight. I enjoyed the trip because I learnt a lot and the plants and flowers were interesting.”

A massive thank you to the Hugh Kenrick Days team from all of us here at Hillcrest School! We had a fantastic day and many of us are looking forward to visiting Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses in our own time to help educate family and friends!

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Details of NAEE’s Hugh Kenrick Days bursary scheme can be found here.