The Tree Council’s schools team engaged thousands of young people at the ‘Routes into Rail’ stand hosted by our partners, Network Rail, at Birmingham NEC’s Big Bang Young Scientists and Engineers Fair.
Network Rail’s interactive stand gave attendees an opportunity to escape the noise and bustle of the fair and engage with science in new and unexpected ways, through nature, inspired by the Force for Nature Exhibition developed by The Tree Council.
The Big Bang Fair is the UK’s biggest celebration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers for young people and took place this year between 21 and 23 June 2023 at The NEC in Birmingham.
The Tree Council team, which included our inspirational young ambassadors, contributed a 15-foot centrepiece English oak tree and 12-foot beech ‘Message Tree’, as well as the Voices of Nature soundscape, and the PlantWave device that converts a plant’s electrical conductivity into mesmerising sound.
Visitors were invited to try out tree planting, leave a message of hope on the ‘Message Tree’, and sow their own acorn to take home and nurture into an oak sapling. More than 2,000 acorns were sown, and around a thousand messages were shared
by passionate young people.
Other activities on offer by Network Rail included a freight train simulator and a reactions test.
Network Rail’s host, Biodiversity Strategy Manager, Dr Neil Strong, was delighted to share the stand with The Tree Council. He said: “Attendees’ enthusiasm for taking home an acorn they had planted in a cup of soil, far outweighed the usual exhibition freebies they were collecting.
“Getting the kids elbow deep in compost to plant a tree, or making music with a buddleia bush, hopefully started a connection with nature, regardless of their future career path.
“The ‘Message Tree’ was a great way for the school kids to tell us all to do better. We saw some amazing foresight from the next generation of tree and environment professionals.”
Richard Pollard, Head of The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme, said: “Big Bang is such a great event.
“Every year thousands of young people visit to engage in the wonder of science and technology, and to meet and be inspired by some of the apprentices and industry leaders who are shaping their future.
“We were thrilled to be given the opportunity by Network Rail to share the wonder of trees with so many enthusiastic and bright leaders of the future.”
The Tree Council works in partnership as a ‘critical friend’ to Network Rail, as it seeks to improve its approach to managing trees and hedgerows along the 20,000 miles of track it manages across the UK, to help create a railway that is better for nature and for people.