University of Birmingham researchers work with children to tackle climate change
The Sector > Research > University of Birmingham researchers work with children to tackle climate change

University of Birmingham researchers work with children to tackle climate change

by Freya Lucas

August 12, 2021

A unique program run by a collective of universities in the UK will see researchers work with children and young people from diverse backgrounds as co-researchers to help shape environmental planning and tackle climate change pressures of the future. 


Working with partners including the Community Forests and scientists, the Voices of the Future project will explore how treescapes – landscapes where trees play a significant role – could be expanded to meet the UK’s net zero targets, and examine how trees and society can benefit each other.


Lead researchers at Manchester Metropolitian University will be working with the universities of Birmingham, Cumbria,Sheffield, Cambridge, Middlesex, Aberdeen to develop a three year project with new methods of engaging young people in imagining, creating and caring for treescapes, including natural woodlands and urban parks.


Children and young people participating in the project will conduct innovative scientific research evaluating how trees adapt to and mitigate climate change, with the aim of developing a future curriculum in schools that will improve environmental literacy.


The children chosen to participate will range in age from early years through to primary and secondary school with the project having a particular focus on collaborating with children and young people from traditionally marginalised groups, whose access to and inclusion in treescapes is often limited.


“The creation of the UK’s future treescapes should be an inclusive process,” explained Professor Peter Kraftl, one of the project co-leads at the University of Birmingham.


“Our project will ensure that diverse groups of children and young people – who are often marginalised and unheard in decisions about the planning of our natural environments – are engaged with in a meaningful way.” 


“We will use a range of techniques taken from disciplines as diverse as ecology, human geography and literacy to ensure that treescapes in any setting – urban or rural – are appropriate to the hopes and aspirations of children today and in the future.”


National and regional partners in the project also include The Children’s Society, the Chartered College of Teachers, Early Childhood Outdoors, Natural England, Forest Research, Manchester City of Trees and Mersey Forest.


Involving thirteen universities and research institutes, over 40 non-academic partners and supporters, and with funding for three years, the Voices of the Future project forms part of the £14.5 million Future of UK Treescapes Programme, involving:



“This research will increase our understanding of the huge societal, economic, cultural and environmental benefits associated with treescapes,” said Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, part of UK Research and Innovation. 


“This includes the importance of trees in urban spaces, why we connect with forests, and how we encourage landowners and farmers to plant more trees. This knowledge will help us identify where and how we can expand our woodlands and ensure their resilience to pressures and stresses over decades and centuries.”

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