Category Archives: Outdoor Learning

Falkirk Learning for Sustainability Showcase Had a “Great Buzz”

WordleOur first Falkirk Learning to Achieve Showcase took place on 4th June between 4-5.30pm at Camelon Education Centre. 64 practitioners came along to get ideas, or to share work they had done with pupils relating to the themes in the Learning for Sustainability word cloud (top left).

17 pupils from St Bernadette’s RC PS, St Francis Xavier’s RC PS, Deanburn PS, Larbert HS & Stenhousemuir PS – stole the show with their enthusiastic and passionate explanations of their work. They very naturally demonstrated that they were confident individuals, successful learners, effective contributors and responsible citizens. Ellie Williams, a pupil from Bo’ness Academy, held the room spellbound with her performance of her own song “Train Track” then “Ae Fond Kiss”. Her music and lyrics powerfully communicated her feelings about her own community and were so evocative when combined with her beautiful, note-perfect singing.  IMG_4660

Anthony Hutcheson, Development Officer for Learning for Sustainability, Education Scotland opened the event with a brilliant, concise presentation of what LfS is all about. He really set the scene for the event and has been a great support for our LfS mobilisation team (Jane Jackson ,Yvonne McBlain, Megan Farr & Tony Bragg) and our emerging Falkirk Learning for Sustainability network.

IMG_4682During the short formal part of the event programme we were delighted to celebrate the achievements of 7 teachers who have gained Professional Recognition from GTCS for their Global Storyline development work. Kim McAuley, Global Education Advisor with the West of Scotland Development Education Centre (WOSDEC) kindly presented the following teachers with their certificates Liz Stephen & Laura Beattie (Deanburn PS), Heather Nicol (Carron PS), Holly Keenan (Bonnybridge PS), Brenda Bennie & Gemma Douglas (Kinnaird PS), Jennifer Main (Wallacestone PS). Our education service is proud to recognise this achievement, and it was great that the audience attending were able to help us celebrate their contribution in a public way. IMG_4658

Jane Jackson linked the content of Anthony’s presentation really well to set the scene for Ellie’s performance and then the mingling and sharing of good practice began.

17 establishments were represented at the event: Mariner Support Service, Kinnaird PS, Rannoch Nursery, Bonnybridge PS, Deanburn PS, St Francis Xavier’s RC PS nursery class and their SCIAF project, Stenhousemuir PS, Larbert HS, St Bernadette’s RC PS, Carrongrange School, Larbert Village PS, Wallacestone PS, Slammanan PS, Limerigg PS, Denny HS, Airth PS and Grangemouth HS. Our own Learning Resource Service took over room 13 and turned it into a wonderful cornucopia of resources useful for supporting teaching and learning around Learning for Sustainability – as always, these were beautifully presented and selected.   Visitors could circulate from this room, via the sustainably decorated improvised café (where consultation on LfS in Falkirk could be left, and leaflets could be picked up) into the main market place, then into the foyer where all of the stalls and displays were set up.

IMG_4680The event was made even more valuable by the participation of a number of organisations who support teaching and learning through Learning for Sustainability, and/or can provide professional learning for practitioners. These included Communities along the Carron (CATCA), Scottish Development Education Centre (SCOTDEC), Project Trust, the British Red Cross, and Grounds for Learning. The John Muir Trust, and Traidcraft were kind enough to send in leaflets and materials for distribution at the event. Yvonne McBlain and Jane Jackson would like to thank everyone involved for their enthusiastic participation, and for creating that lovely BUZZ.



Sign up for the Falkirk Learning for Sustainability Showcase!

Word cloudFalkirk Council Education Services will hold a Learning for Sustainability Showcase event in Camelon Education Centre on 4th June between 4-5.30pm.

Jane Jackson and Yvonne McBlain are working with colleagues in schools and in the Service Support and Improvement team to make the programme for the event as rich as possible.

So far, we know that Scotdec will be there to share the professional learning they can offer and lots of wonderful resources teachers can use with their pupils. We are thrilled that Anthony Hutcheson, development officer from Education Scotland will welcome everyone AND will be sharing the new LfS professional learning area in Glow. Organisations like Opal, the John Muir Trust, Royal Highland Education Trust are all coming along to share how they can contribute to learning for pupils and for staff. CATCA will be there, and members of the Outdoor Learning Network will show how they have developed learning outwith the classroom.  Wosdec will also attend to help us celebrate the achievements of teachers and pupils taking part in the Global Storyline training programme.

We know that Falkirk teachers and early years officers use the Learning for Sustainability theme across many areas of the curriculum and are pleased to have a growing number of applications to share this work at the showcase. We know there is lots more good practice out there though so please click here for an application form and instructions if you would like to share your work too. The word cloud above shows just how diverse Learning for Sustainability is, and with your help, we are keen to show as wide a range of work as possible. LfS snip

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to share this year at this event – you can always sign up using code LfS1 in CPD Manager. We would love to see you there to help build a strong and appreciative audience at the event. The more, the merrier – we look forward to seeing you on the 4th June!

Falkirk Staff Online Spaces for Sharing Resources and Collaboration

Malcolm Wilson, ICT Curriculum Development Officer within the Curriculum Support team of Service and School Improvement, Falkirk Council Education Services, has been supporting many central staff and staff within educational establishments across Falkirk Council to set up shared online spaces for making available resources to colleagues working in Falkirk Council, and to provide them with tools to collaborate.

These online spaces provide a means to share resources within the education community of all Falkirk Council establishments and can be accessed from here:

Each site provides at least one document store, and in many cases multiple document stores for making accessible resources in different formats, as well as picture galleries for sharing examples of practice, a discussion area for asking questions or sharing ideas, a news area for updates, and a weblinks area for quick access to related material elsewhere online.

Some of these sites are for sharing centrally sourced resources, some are for providing the means for staff in establishments to share with others, some provide a means to share with specific colleagues in different establishments, some provide structured professional development combining reading material, presentations and video, space for reflective comments with colleagues undertaking the same professional development and making use of video-conferencing spaces, and some provide a common space for clusters of schools to plan together and to pool resources for activities across multiple establishments.

These shared online spaces include Active Learning, Active Literacy, Art Teachers Network Falkirk, Bilingual and Traveller Pupil Support Service, Denny Cluster (including for Mathematics and for Outdoor Learning Network), Education Communications, Education Matters, Employee Review and Development, Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and Outcomes Expanded for all curricular areas and for all levels, Falkirk Confucius Classroom Hub, Falkirk Headteachers, Good Practice Network, Graeme Cluster Good Practice Network (including cluster transition event planning), ICT in Learning and Teaching, Instrumental Music Service for Falkirk Council, Interdisciplinary Learning in Falkirk Council, Numeracy and Mathematics, Physical Education, Primary Language Learning 1+2 Resource Bank, Specific Learning Differences, Storyline, Teaching for Deep Learning, and the To Lead or Not to Lead programme, amongst other online spaces specifically for staff working in Falkirk Council.

Staff within Falkirk Council Education Services can access the above spaces by clicking on this link.

Taking ICT Outdoors with Mobile Devices

Malcolm Wilson, ICT Curriculum Development Officer within the Curriculum Support team of Service and School Improvement, Falkirk Council Education Services, led a session at the Outdoor Learning Conference organised by Jane Jackson, Outdoor Learning Development Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team. This session explored using mobile devices in outdoor learning.

So why use mobile devices?

Many schools are now looking to use mobile devices to enhance the educational experience of learners – whether to provide the means to explain a task, to enhance engagement of learners, to record what’s been achieved, or to facilitate sharing of learner activity with others. And many schools are also trying to make the most of the outdoors to bring learning alive. So here are ideas for using mobile devices outdoors, making use of the features of smartphones to help engage pupils in learning outdoors.

What was needed on the mobile device?

To avoid the need for an active Internet connection (to avoid pupils using their own device incurring any cost, or to avoid wifi-only tablet devices needing a connection when aweay from any signal) none of the activities described below require to use an Internet connection to operate. However prior to going outdoors the device would require to have the following features found or apps installed as required (so may require to be downloaded in advance on a wireless connection) so that they can be used outdoors where there is no WiFi availability and so that no user’s personal 3G connection data plan should incur them in a cost.

Note that the mobile device will require to have previously installed apps:

1. QR code reader to read QR codes (e.g. RedLaser)

2. Camera app (which needs to be able to take still images and video with audio)

3. Audio recorder (e.g. voice recorder)

4. Note-taking app (e.g. Notes)

5. Timer (may be a feature of a clock or alarm app)

6. Email set up with an email account which will be able to send the resulting work from the activities

How was the session organised?

In groups of around 5, each group with one mobile device (smartphone or tablet), participants udertook a series of activities making use of apps on the mobile device.

Each group was given a map of the school grounds with locations labelled by number or letter. Each group was given a different starting point and then rotated round locations in different sequences from the other groups. When they arrived at the noted location they found a QR code in that location. The QR code reader on the mobile device was then used to scan the QR code – this then provided written text explaining the task to be undertaken at that location.

The activities which will require to be undertaken at each location were revealed in instructions via the mobile device to each group only when they scanned the QR code with the mobile device.

For more information about the use of QR codes within an educational context see:

The site used to create the text-only QR codes for this session was

What were the activities?

Here are the task instructions which were revealed on the mobile device once each QR code was scanned. Click on the following link for the document (in Word format) with the QR codes ready for printing: QR-code_sheets-for-Outdoor_Learning_with_mobile_devices

1. Take pictures using the mobile device camera app of the shape of each letter in the word OUTDOORS which your group will create out of materials at hand near the location (e.g. sticks, grass, stones, feet, etc). No faces should appear in the photographs.

2. Take a video, lasting no longer than 30 seconds, where no faces appear, and involving everyone in the group, where each person says what they feel learners get out of outdoor learning – be creative about what you point the camera at – anything other than faces (and give it some movement so it is not static picture but scanning around) – ensure the speaking is done near the mobile device so that it can be heard clearly.

Click on this link to view a video created by one group in response to this task:


3. Use note-taking app on the mobile device to type words which the group comes up with which describe how you feel when looking at a view or an object outdoors which you can see where you are now – jot down the words then use the cut/copy/paste option to rearrange the words to make a rhythmic piece of writing.

One group together came up with the words: Cold, Energetic, Inspired, Mad, Creative, Moved, Free, Enthusiastic, Jealous, Carefree, Motivated, Encouraged.

Then they moved the words around on the note-taking app and created the following: “I feel Happy, I feel mad, when I’m outside I don’t feel sad I feel jealous, I feel crazy, I’m so energetic I don’t feel lazy I feel creative, I feel inspired, of the outdoors I don’t get tired!”

4. Use an audio recording app (voice recorder microphone app) to record a chant/rap made up by the group (of a few lines length), including background improvised rhythmic sounds your group creates e.g. something starting like “1-2-3-4, Get outdoors more!”

Click on the following links to hear rap/chants created by two groups in response to this task:

Outdoor Rap_LB


5. Use timer app on the mobile device to have the group collectively name as many birds in one minute as they can. Repeat this for flowers. Repeat this for trees. One member of the team acts as the timer using the app. Another member of the team counts the number of items covered in one minute each time.

One group reported they had managed the following number of items in response to this task: 20 birds, 25 flowers, 15 trees.

6. Create a funny “selfie” using the mobile device camera app in which everyone in the group appears (including the photographer) but where everyone’s face is obscured by objects found outdoors.

How did learners share their learning?

There are different ways of sharing materials created on a mobile device. The way which was chosen for this activity was as follows. At the end of all of the activities, once back into an environment where WiFi was available to the user of the mobile device, the resulting work was then shared by email to a single email contact. Depending on the size of attachments they may require to have been sent as separate emails rather than all at once. And in some cases in order to find the audio recordings, video, etc on the device it may be that users required to go into the individual app and click on the file, then click share and choose email as the method of sharing.

What did participants say?

Feedback from participants included:

“The ICT workshop was amazing and I learned a great deal. I can appreciate how these lessons would motivate pupils and encourage their learning and creativity.”

“Gained some ideas about using mobile technology.”

“The session with QR codes was great for a) learning how QR codes work, b) using new apps on my phone!, c) how easy it could be to use QR codes for OL activities. It supports my plans for developing our John Muir Award activities for sharing information about Polmont woods.”

“The ICT workshop in the afternoon was great fun and I could see how this could so easily be adapted for use with pupils and I can see that it would thoroughly motivate and enthuse them.”

“I enjoyed the afternoon session which gave me a better understanding of how using mobile phone with regards to children’s learning might be used”

“Doing the ICT outdoors was great fun and I came away with great ideas.”

Exciting CPD from new partnership!

Yvonne McBlain from Falkirk Curriculum Support Team met with Ray McFadyen, Education Officer from the Museum of Scottish Railways on 12th November. Ray shared the new museum education support pack (click to view) which he has just completed, and described the themed artefact handling boxes he has created (click to view).  Yvonne and Ray talked about the range of steam and diesel-driven machinery and artefacts which could stimulate ideas for teachers of technology. Consequently, they will collaborate to create and organise a CPD Manager course offering secondary DET teachers the opportunity to visit the museum collection after hours. A visit to the museum and railway station next to Bo’ness harbour offers a whole range of creative teaching possibilities (click to explore how a visit could look). Yvonne and Ray will work with Sharon Wallace, Primary Curriculum Support Officer to plan and deliver an innovative series of CPD sessions which will include a site visit. These sessions will allow teachers to explore how the museum collection and location could be used to progress literacy skills across learning, in an active, engaging and creative way – within and outwith the classroom! Keep your eye on CPD Manager – we hope to upload these descriptors soon.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

Effective Teaching – Uganda style


Yvonne McBlain, from Falkirk Council curriculum support team was fascinated to hear about the parallels observed by Sarah Ritchie and Jill Stocks during their recent visit to Uganda. Sarah  embarked upon this visit expecting to focus on the differences between Scottish teaching and that delivered in Uganda. However, instead she has been struck by the similarities of the fundamental elements of teaching in Kampala and Bonnybridge!  One of her first observations was the sharing of learning objectives with pupils – in Kampala classrooms these are very effectively shared with pupils – despite the differences in resourcing levels there. Teachers in Uganda are challenged by very large classes, small classrooms and limited resources – a chalk board and a piece of chalk basically. In spite of these limitations these teachers are making extremely effective use of what we would call formative assessment. Other aspects of practice familiar to Scottish teachers commonly used were: pupils teaching pupils, active strategies used to gauge understanding, regular peer feedback, a very natural and integrated use of outdoor learning, and a very creative range of randomising techniques. Teachers at every stage ensured that pupils had a clear understanding of success criteria for their tasks. The ethos and life of this Kampala school was overwhelmingly positive and affirmative and achievement and learning was truly and enthusiastically celebrated. Click here to view a page of teacher planning Uganda style, and click on the pictures at the start of this post to see short video clips taken by Sarah during her visit.

Glenbervie Kindergarden – Outdoor Learning

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Offcier, Falkirk Council Curriculum Supoprt Team has been supporting Glenbervie Kindergarden who are the latest private partner nursery to start using NHS Larbert Woods on a regular basis.  Following a parent session on 14th August children aged 3 and 4 are now accessing the site weekly.  The children walk from the nursery and stay on site for approximately 2 hours before begnning their walk home.  Staff were amazed how well the children have managed this and noticed an increase in their stamina and energy even at the end of a busy session.

During the session on 21st August the children explored the environment and found some very interesting features to play – especially a large puddle.

The staff are also listening to the children’s interestes and some of the children found a hole which they believed to be a fox hole.  A conversation about other nocturnal animals then evolved with all children taking part – this is now something that the nursery can take forward as a topic and be able to make it relevant for the children because of their visit to the woods.

All children had great fun – although I am sure the washing machine might have been pushed to the limits!

Glenbervie Kindergarden Outdoor Learning

Glenbervie Kindergarden are the latest nursery to embark on Outdoor Learning for their children.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team held a training session for staff on 12th June at Larbert Woods NHS Site.

This session gave staff the opportunity to take part in practical activities as well as discuss any logistic issues they will face in getting the children out to access this exciting space. 

Watch this space for details of their first visit.

Kinnaird Primary Joint Fitness Sessions

Morag Young and Morag Simpson, PE Lead Officers, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team visited Kinnaird Primary to observe their joint fitness sessions. This involved two or three classes joining together to maximise facility use and help the delivery of their two hour Physical Education programnme. The class teachers take a team teach approach, sharing the responsibility for planning and delivering different aspects of the lesson.

The children enjoyed their learning and were active and engaged throughout. P2-3 were involved with a zumbatonic and fitness session learning about how the body feels during exercise and what is required before and after activity. P3-4 did an outdoor games session where the focus was on personal choice and working together in pairs or small groups. P5-6 were practising and developing different movement patterns in a relay style format. This provided the opportunity for learners to work on their self-determination, motivation and co-ordiantion.

We have already recommended this format to other schools who have limited access to facilities for Physical Education.  Thank you to all staff and pupils involved.