Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Case Study for National Youth Work Week 2015 #YWW15

Posted: November 2, 2015 at 07:26 am

How young people have helped shape the HLF Community Youth activities at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

"Having an app based on our choices is cool"

Team WB member.

Westonbirt attracts over 350,000 visits per year and is known worldwide for its spectacular autumn colour. Enabling the public to engage with the tree collection and develop an understanding of its care and conservation is a core part of the arboretum’s role. However, very few of these visits are made by young people.The community youth programme was established as a part of the Westonbirt Project, a Heritage Lottery funded project aimed at developing new activities to bring under-represented audiences to Westonbirt. Attempting to connect teenagers with trees could be a daunting prospect, but as Community Youth Officer, Karen Price explains:

"As we were looking at ways of attracting a youth audience to the arboretum to connect with the collection, rather than try and guess what would interest young people, we decided to ask the young people themselves"

...hence Team WB, the arboretum's very own youth forum was formed!

As a result of widespread consultation over the first six months of the project, a comprehensive and challenging programme has been developed, and since piloted by visiting youth groups.

Karen says that

"the most common request was for the opportunity to take part in an adventure that puts their skills, knowledge and abilities to the test. This ties in very well with the qualities and adventurous spirit needed by the Victorian plant hunters that collected some of the original plants for the arboretum."

The two programmes created were:

>> Wild Westonbirt – an informal learning programme encouraging young people to explore the wilder side of the arboretum;

>> Can You Cut It? – learning traditional woodland management skills through coppice restoration and practical conservation activities.

Since January 2014, there have been nearly 1000 visits, by young people aged 11 – 25, participating in activities either at the arboretum or through outreach work. In addition, over 300 visitors have been consulted at Forest Live events.

Team WB participants have also helped shape the future of youth involvement at the arboretum by:

>> Providing feedback for the development of a range of new, specifically branded, youth marketing materials;

>> Providing content ideas and testing of TreeQuests, the Westonbirt app;

>> Providing a regular focus group for senior management of the arboretum to gain a youth view on site developments.

For the young people, it enables them to have their voice heard and feel a valued part of large organisation.

‘Westonbirt is bigger than anything we would normally get involved in. It’s bigger than a school survey and having an app based on our choices is cool’

Ruby – Team WB member.

Westonbirt Team WB

To find out more about how to get involved with Team WB, visit our community youth pages or follow Westonbirt Team WB on Facebook.