We don’t often get the chance to plant trees since most of us don’t have the garden space! Recently our local Alnwick Garden offered sapling planting so along we toddled, wrapped warm against the cold on a bitter February day. We also discovered new ways to get outdoors through scientific nature studies around the UK.

In the garden’s craft yurt we received tree planting details while the kids made badges and crafted family trees. I chatted with Jonathan Swift who works for OPAL (Open Air Laboratories), partnering the tree planting initiative.

Enjoying tasty shoots of freshly picked wild garlic, or Ramsons

Citizen Science With OPAL

OPAL provide nationwide citizen science projects whose data builds a picture of our natural environment. You participate in various nature surveys with easy-to-follow information packs free of charge, reporting findings for scientific analysis.

These are brilliant projects for wild kids at school holiday time, for Forest Schools, youth groups, home educators, Scouts and Guides.

Outdoor Nature Explorers

We selected a Tree Health Survey pack, including field, tree and ‘most unwanted’ guides and the Air Survey pack with lichen ID guide and mini magnifier.

Image of tree identification pack with measuring tape, pencil and magnifier

OPAL’s Tree Health and Air Survey packs, available online

Both surveys are done when trees are in leaf as tar spots and lichen growth indicate air quality.

Other OPAL surveys include flatworms, bugs, water, biodiversity, soil and earthworm, climate, metal, brownfield and pollination – something for everyone.

Thanks to Jonathan Swift for his inspiration. Start your citizen science project at OPAL Surveys.

Having been thoroughly inspired for summer science projects it was time to plant trees. We headed out into a snow shower but the cold didn’t deter my wildling and her friend.

They chose from a selection of native species – birch, beech, oak – and picked memorable spaces in the woods to dig in their saplings. Jonathan suggested naming the trees. Caroline choose Ivy – from a piece growing nearby – which became Io (Ivy Oak) as she loves the moons of Jupiter. See our Jupiter planet project. Her friend’s tree was Geoff! The girls love that they can visit the trees as they grow.

Caroline planting ‘Io’!!

Two cold, happy girls, two cold, happy saplings, taking root as I type.

Image of two girls standing next to saplings planted in woodland

Our ID photo of the girls with their saplings so we can return in future

More Citizen Science Projects

There are many citizen science surveys, from seed growing with the International Space Station (read more in Kids Space Odyssey) to seaweed or dragonfly watches.

To add a citizen science or nature watch project please get in touch.

For wildlife spotting without the survey participation read Wildlife Spotting Inspiration.