When it comes to a subject where students can benefit from seeing a little real-world application and experience, one area of study that springs to mind is mathematics – and there’s no better place to investigate maths and its impact in the real world than Cornwall’s Eden Project. The complex geodesic shapes of the domes themselves are only the beginning of the applied mathematics that students on school tours will be able to appreciate and learn from. The education centre itself has been designed with Fibonnaci numbers and spiral geometries, and estimating the height of the 70-tonne granite sculpture the Eden Project is home to can be a fun initial challenge.
The Eden Project is comprised, primarily, of two enclosures housed under adjoining domes constructed from hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal inflated plastic cells, which are supported in steel frames. Each enclosure creates a biome; one imitating Mediterranean temperatures and housing plants such as olives and grape vines, and the other creating a tropical environment with plants such as banana trees, coffee, and giant bamboo. Students visiting the biomes on school tours can gain an appreciation of the construction of the domes, as well as considering the intersection between mathematics and the other areas of study the Eden Projects entails.
Opened in September 2005, the Core provides the Eden Project with an education facility, incorporating classrooms and exhibition spaces designed to help communicate Eden’s central message about the relationship between people and plants. Accordingly, the building itself has taken its inspiration from plants – most noticeable in the form of the soaring timber roof which gives the building its distinctive shape. The geometry of the copper-clad roof was developed in collaboration with a sculptor, Peter Randall-Page, and structural engineer Mike Purvis of Sinclair Knight Merz. Students on school tours will learn that the design is derived from phyllotaxis, which is the mathematical basis for nearly all plant growth and manifests in the “opposing spirals” found in many plants – such as the seeds in a sunflower’s head, pine cones and pineapples.
While there’s plenty to learn at the Eden Project itself for mathematics groups, combining other locations can also add educational value to your itinerary – such as the At-Bristol Science museum which offers interactive workshops for students. The Eden Project is also home to plenty of learning resources and workshops, making it a fascinating place for students on school tours.