This is an account of the visit in January by a Year 5 group from Kings Norton Primary School to Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses as part of NAEE’s Hugh Kenrick Days bursary scheme.  It’s written by class teacher Mr K Lees.

Prior to visiting the Botanical gardens, Year 5 had been studying the topic ‘Our Local Area’.  During the topic it is necessary to identify links between our local area and the wider world.  The purpose of the trip was to give our children first hand experiences of contrasting environments they can compare their local area to.

During the visit, Year 5 split into two groups that swapped activities mid-morning. One group was split into further smaller groups to explore the glasshouses.  The other group investigated the other parts of the gardens.  Further time was given to both groups after lunch to visit the remaining areas of the gardens.

Each of the glasshouses were an insight into different environments that were home to a wide variety of plants contrasting to the ones in their own local area.  The children took great pleasure in experiencing these environments and seeing plants that they would otherwise only see in books or on a screen.  The education staff were extremely responsive to the excitable input of the children, who had many questions.  This made the visit all the more engaging and informative.

The rest of the gardens were ours to explore at our own pace.  This allowed us as educators to think about engaging ways to cover other aspects of the curriculum.  Staff planning the trip were lucky enough to be allowed free entry to the gardens to plan how to use the remaining time.  There were many opportunities for adults to stop the groups to complete various tasks such as observational drawings, note-taking exercises or surveys.  The open areas and playgrounds were good environments for the children to exercise and engage in team building exercises.

The visit highlighted how valuable real-life practical experiences help the children engage with their learning.  When we returned from the trip, it was pleasing to see the children recalling facts relevant to their topic they previously didn’t consider.  One child explained how Cadbury World (situated in our local area) needs cocoa beans from the tropical rainforest, which we can’t grow in our climate.  Other recalled facts included the source of rubber and how valuable the material is to our everyday life and how leaves are shaped differently to suit the environment and why.  One child mentioned “I really enjoyed our day out, I had a load of questions and they answered them all!”.

Thanks to the engaging and enthusiastic staff at the Botanical Gardens, the children had also grown a conscientious attitude towards looking after their local environment.  After the visit, children wrote an information text about the gardens and created posters about being environmentally friendly. One year 5 pupil  linked their previous learning from school and their visit and said: “I like how there’s loads of different places out there… I need to do more to look after them!”

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