OLYMPIC LEGACY: London 2012 ‘oak tree’ transformed into a primary school’s learning tool

In warmer climes, the tree makes a good spot for idle chit-chat and outdoor picnics, not forgetting to mention its natural beauty and life-giving properties, but a Surrey primary school has given a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘tree of learning’, while honouring the nation’s Olympic legacy at the same time.

Three years after London played host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with its spectacular opening and closing ceremonies masterfully organised by 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, Epsom Primary & Nursery School has transformed one of the artificial oak trees used at London 2012 into a learning suite for its 547 pupils.

As part of the redevelopment at the school, which caters for children aged 3-16, the oak was taken out of storage and donated by the company that made it specially for the elaborate opening ceremony three years ago in Stratford, east London. The school then undertook an educational project over fifteen months to incorporate the tree into a new ‘learning suite’ with modern interactive technology for pupils to enhance their learning. The new facility, dubbed the “Enchanted Learning & Technology Suite” drew inspiration from the Enid Blyton children’s classic stories compilation Magic Faraway Tree, a favourite of the school’s deputy head teacher, as well as Epsom School’s emblem, a green stylised tree.

On the new suite’s opening at the school in Pound Lane, Epsom on the 18th March, which was covered by the local newspaper, the Epsom Guardian , children sat on specially-designed tree stumps to read books under the Olympic learning tree. In its earlier role at the critically acclaimed Olympic Games ceremony, the tree was seen rising out of a mound of grassy earth representing Glastonbury Tor, as more than a billion people watched Danny Boyle’s ceremony to kick off the London games.Workers streamed out from beneath the roots as the tree was lifted into the air and ‘an industrial revolution transformed the rural scenery’. The oak traditionally has a long association with British culture and was revered as a sacred tree by the Celts.

The tree once again takes centre stage after it was converted into a nature-themed staircase by local architects. Pupils can ‘climb’ up the learning tree to reach a mezzanine floor where the suite is located. Once there, they can access technology such as e-readers and tablets to reinforce classroom learning or do homework. Other uses planned for the suite and its accompanying tree include as a base for after-school clubs, breakfast clubs and as a facility for drama classes and computer activities.

London 2012 banner at The Monument.
London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle Pollard, the deputy head at Epsom Primary School said: 

Securing the Olympic tree was the icing on the cake for our new library project. We wanted the new room to ignite a love of reading in the school – we couldn’t have asked for a more magical design. The tree was given to the school by Souvenir Scenic Solutions, the specialist company who built it for the Olympics, we are so grateful for their support and generosity.

Simon Kenny, a specialist working with the scenery builders told how his team assembled the tree to accommodate the space within the new library as well as creating the stumps.

He said: “We were happy to donate the labour and time to the school because we want to support education in these hard times. We are very happy for the tree to have another life.

It was great to see everybody’s faces and how excited they were. The room they created is like a magic world.

The library has been created to ensure current and future generations of students at Epsom Primary School develop a love of reading and research. Additional funding for the construction of the learning and technology suite came from the School Commissioning and Early Years Education Departments at Surrey Borough Council, the local authority administering the school.

SOURCES:
“Olympic ‘Oak Tree’ becomes ‘Tree of Learning’ at Epsom Primary School” – Journalism.co.uk – Press Release/Mousetrap Media Ltd (31 March 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/olympic-oak-tree-becomes-tree-of-learning-at-epsom-primary-school/s66/a564650/
“Recent News” – Epsom Primary School http://www.epsomprimaryschool.co.uk/news-recent
“Olympics opening ceremony tree placed at heart of library at Epsom Primary and Nursery School” – Alice Foster,  Your Local Guardian.co.uk – Epsom (24 March 2015) http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/epsomnews/11875295.Olympics_opening_ceremony_tree_placed_at_heart_of_school_library/
VIDEO CREDITS:
“Recent News” – Epsom Primary School http://www.epsomprimaryschool.co.uk/news-recent
“Enchanted Learning & Technology Suite” – EPS Calendar, Epsom Primary School, YouTube GB (20 March 2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x6LTivjBkg&feature=youtu.be
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:15-11-05 101 Monument.jpg” – Michael Pead, Wikimedia Commons & michaelpead.co.uk (5 January 2006) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15-11-05_101_Monument.jpg

 

 

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