The Bank Street Occasional Paper Series is celebrating its 50th anniversary by unveiling its latest issue— “Learning With Treescapes in Environmentally Endangered Times”—which explores treescapes as rich spaces for connection, belonging, and learning and illustrates their vital role for the present and future health of the planet, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.
In the Q&A below, guest editors Samyia Ambreen, research associate in the Education and Social Sciences Research Institute (ESRI), Manchester Metropolitan University, and Kate Pahl, professor of arts and literacy, Manchester Metropolitan University, further explore the theme of this special edition and discuss how curricula that is centered around trees can enrich learning and help shape a more sustainable future for all.
Q: What inspired the concept of treescapes as a central theme for this special issue, and how do you envision it contributing to the understanding of the role of trees in our world?
A: We were inspired by the concept of treescapes because treescapes is a word that reflects trees in the every day. Trees in cities often appear on streets, in parks, in schools, and they are sometimes incidental in our daily life. In this special issue, we value these treescapes and give them a voice in our thinking and in our pedagogies.
Q: In the introduction, you write, “We need to respond to the crisis of deforestation globally, as global citizens of the world, and also within our neighborhoods and localities.” How does teaching children about treescapes help lead to a more sustainable future?
A: By engaging children in learning about trees through hands-on experiences, we are paying attention to the affective and embodied experiences of children and trees. Through this relational perspective, we are enabling children to see the value of trees in their everyday experiences, both in and out of school. Our aim is to rethink curriculum—rather than learning about trees through scientific facts, we are learning by experience as we build new knowledge about trees and their role in mitigating the climate crisis. This issue offers possibilities to envision future treescapes and develop the practice of hope.
Q: In this issue, you feature the voices of children, educators, parents, activists, policymakers, and researchers about their encounters with treescapes. How do these diverse perspectives work cohesively to illustrate the value of learning through treescapes?
A: We think that the problems of today are only solvable through listening. In this special issue, we listen to multiple perspectives. We are particularly interested in the voices of children and young people. We also think that diverse, multi-generational perspectives from across the globe and from different communities can contribute new knowledge to our existing understandings. By thinking across and through generations, we are recognizing the value of treescapes for the continuity and survival of human life.
Q: For educators looking to re-invigorate their focus on trees and treescapes, what are some practical strategies or resources you would recommend to incorporate tree-centered learning into their curricula or programs?
A: We are offering educators the opportunity to rethink our relationship with trees. To address the anthropocentric views about trees, we need to create more relational and embodied relations with trees. This issue offers possibilities for educators to adopt their practice or pedagogies and consider how trees can afford practical learning opportunities for children. We are offering a shift in knowledge and we hope to inspire educators to focus on learning with and from trees instead of learning about trees.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from this issue?
A: We hope that educators and communities will read this special issue and find hope in the practices described here. We believe there are new ways of being and knowing that can be found within this special issue. We also hope that educators will encourage children to voice their thinking about their experiences and engagement with trees. This issue reminds us that learning about trees and with trees can be embedded in our daily lives. They can be experienced anywhere—with anybody—and can be expressed not just through language, but through many different forms.