Tuesday, 19 November 2013

HLF Skills for the Future traineeship

Tim Dobson is our latest trainee to have completed a placement at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.  Here are his reflections on his time with us...

For the last six months, the HLF Skills for the Future program has brought me to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.  This placement was divided evenly between the two sites, and I spent May to July at the Garden, and August to October at the Arboretum.

With little previous experience of teaching in an outdoor environment, it has been a wonderful and refreshing (often due to the rain!) experience.  Wellies and waterproofs at the ready, I have worked closely with the Education Team.  I have been involved in teaching many school sessions at both sites, including making art using the natural autumn colours of the fallen leaves at the Arboretum with Key Stage 2 groups (aged 7 – 11 years), and finding naughty Peter Rabbit amongst the rhubarb with Reception classes (aged 4 – 5 years) at the Garden.

Tim at the Cowley Road Carnival with pupils from Bayard's Hill Primary School

We’ve planned and delivered what feels like an infinite number of family friendly activity days from making “greenhouses” out of sandwich bags in the Conservatory that protected us from the howling wind and rain of late spring to an Alice in Wonderland themed picnic in the beautiful hot July sun!

Making habitat puppets at a family friendly event

Storytelling at the Garden's first Under 5's event

These are just a few example of what I’ve been doing over the last six months, and sadly my time here is up.  As luck would have it, I spent my placement here in the best months of the year.  I started at the Garden in time for the spring blooms, and finished at the Arboretum amidst its remarkable autumn colours.  The Ashmolean now calls, which will be my new home for my third and final placement.

I will miss both sites and the staff a great deal.  However, the good news is that I will be returning very soon!  I’ve been working on a project for GCSE art students, to help them with their exam preparation, and will be using the collections of the Ashmolean, Garden and Arboretum.  I think the contrast between the Ashmolean’s historical art collection from ancient Greece to the Pre-Raphaelites and the Garden and Arboretum’s natural collection is unique.  It also gives me a great excuse to continue working outside… rain, wind or snow!

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