Families visiting the Forestry Commission’s Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest can hire backpacks full of exciting activities and ideas to help 5-12 year olds explore trees and nature.
The Bedgebury education team introduced the activity backpacks in 2011, as a way to encourage families to discover more of what Bedgebury has to offer. The backpacks initiative was made possible thanks to the support of the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum.
“Lots of families bring children here to use our play trail and cycling routes, and we wanted to give them an easy way to venture into other areas of the pinetum and get involved in some hands-on learning, as well as all of the fun play,” explains Irene Davies, Education Officer at Bedgebury.
Activity backpacks are well-established in museums and Irene believes there’s huge potential for introducing them into natural world settings too. “What’s great about them is how flexible they are,” she says. “It’s easy to include learning and play activities for children of different ages so that the experience works for the whole family.”
Tailored activities for different age groups
Bedgebury currently offers three types of backpack, each one tailored to the needs of different age groups. The red backpack helps 5-7 year olds to explore their surroundings with the help of a magnifying glass, binoculars, a picture guide and a bark-rubbing kit.
The green backpack is suitable for 7-9 year olds and includes science-based activities such as taking soil samples and light readings, to work out the best place to plant a new tree. The blue backpack is for 9-12 year olds and includes maths-based challenges such as measuring the height of the tallest tree in Kent.