Open Arboretum Project
Funded by the University College Cork (UCC) Green Campus Living Laboratory Seed Fund, the UCC Open Arboretum Project ran from 2019 to 2020, aiming to breathe new life into the UCC's arboretum.
The arboretum at UCC, an attractive collection of trees of varying species and origins, holds the distinction of being the university's oldest STEM public engagement tool and among the most longstanding in Irish higher education institutions. The Open Arboretum Project aimed to recapture and expand upon the arboretum's original purpose - a vibrant tool for education and research. The project delved into the trees' vital contributions to the environment and biodiversity, as well as their impact on the health and well-being of the UCC community, from students and faculty to campus visitors.
A highlight of the project was the development of the ‘UCC Tree Tour,’ designed to stimulate the general public’s curiosity about the university's arboretum. The project team conducted two in-person tours before the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person activities to a halt. The tours received an enthusiastic response, particularly from third-level students who partook in the excursion.
One student remarked, "I found it very interesting that walking through the main gates each day, I pass one of the rarest trees in the world without even knowing it. Very happy about this experience, and I hope it happens again."
Another student echoed the sentiment, saying, "Really insightful facts and history of every tree were given. The passion Dr Lettice and Dr Doyle have for the topic was clearly evident and added greatly to the overall enjoyment of the tour."
And yet another appreciated the diversion the tour offered from their studies, saying, "It was really enjoyable - a welcome break from the books."
Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the UCC Open Arboretum Project found innovative ways to continue to engage the public. Through several social media campaigns, including a virtual tour of the collection on Twitter and Instagram, the project managed to attract a staggering 167,876 views and 11,163 engagements. In the face of adversity, the Open Arboretum Project truly flourished, bringing the UCC arboretum closer to the hearts and minds of the public.
University College Cork, Griffin, A. A., Doyle Prestwich, B., University College Cork, Lettice, E. P., & University College Cork. (2019). UCC Open Arboretum Project: Trees as a teaching and outreach tool for environmental and plant education. Learning Connections 2019: Spaces, People, Practice, 122–128. https://doi.org/10.33178/LC2019.25