Sailing and Sustainability in South Ayrshire

Vincent McWhirter, DofE Development Officer, has been working with all secondary schools in South Ayrshire on a unique and creative sail training project. Last summer, the project included travelling to Turkey to take charge of a 40ft yacht and sailing in the Gulf of Fethiye for a week exploring remote islands and coastlines.  While at sea the pupils also participated in their John Muir Discovery Award learning about the marine environment and the importance of protecting the marine environment. During their expedition they also did a beach clean in a remote Turkish bay, removing lots of plastic containers and other floating rubbish.

Other groups spent time visiting remote berths and marinas around Mull, Loch Linnhe and Oban and doing a beach clean near Malaig. All groups were involved in the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Community Sighting programme recording and reporting cetacean sightings. The waters of the Hebrides are one of the most important marine habitats in Europe, home to nearly 70% of its whale, dolphin and porpoise species, in addition to basking sharks and seals.

All pupils spent several months preparing for the expeditions with sea training and RYA navigation courses delivered by the Central Scotland Sea School.   In addition they spent a week training on a yacht in the Firth of Clyde and the west coast as their practice expedition, in preparation for their Qualifying adventure.  While at sea all the pupils completed their RYA Competent Crew certificate.

This year there will be three expeditions going to Turkey and one up the west coast of Scotland. Many thanks to Vincent for sharing this information.

Cairngorms Outdoor Learning Competition

Cairngorms Outdoor Learning Competition

What is it?

This is a biennial competition for educational establishments (e.g. schools, nurseries, youth clubs/groups, outdoor centres, etc) to recognise and encourage Curriculum for Excellence work that raises understanding and awareness of the Cairngorms National Park and its special qualities among pupils. Entrants should be bold and creative in their approach and draw from all aspects of the curriculum not just obvious subject areas such as geography and biology.

The competition is run by Cairngorms National Park Authority

There will be three age categories:-

  • Early  years and lower Primary 3 – 8 years old
  • Upper Primary 8 – 12 years old
  • Secondary  12 – 16 years old

If successful what will you win?

There will be a 1st and 2nd prize for each age category.

As well as recognition for good work, the successful establishment will be presented with:-

  • 1st Prize £300 grant to develop outdoor learning.
  • 2nd Prize £150 grant to develop outdoor learning.
  • A framed ‘winners’ certificate.
  • A National Park flag.

We will also promote good entries on GLOW, Education Scotland and Cairngorms National Park websites.

Who can enter and what does it cost?

The competition is free to enter and open to any educational establishment in Scotland.

How do you enter?

Simply complete an entry form (available from ) and tell us in no more than 1000 words (and pictures) –

  • about your work on the Cairngorms National Park,
  • what difference it has made to your understanding of the Cairngorms National Park.
  • what you would do with the grant if you won the competition to further develop outdoor learning opportunities at your establishment.

Don’t be constrained by the format, we’re happy to get a presentation in a format of your choice (DVD, Powerpoint, music etc) so long as it is no longer than 5 mins (about the time it takes to read 1000 words.

Dumfries and Galloway Glow TV Series

The wonderful Glow team in Dumfries and Galloway recently held a series of events about creative outdoor learning and ICT where the children shared their learning through live broadcast on Glow TV. You can watch them all again here. You can still take part in some podcasting and photography challenges and find out more about the epic journey made each year by geese. You can even learn how to make a bird box!

Quiet Spaces Glow Meet

Recently as part of our Glow Meet series on Health and Well-being Outdoors, we had the opportunity to think about the benefits of creating quiet spaces for thinking and reflection. You can watch the glowmeet again here.

As well as looking at some creative work in classrooms where ‘I wonder’ corners were used to help boys with social, emotional and behavioural needs to build their coping and self regulation skills, we also had the opportunity to hear from Rev. Di Williams MBE.

The Labyrinth at Edinburgh University is being used by staff, students and members of the public as a quiet space for reflecting, especially in the midst of a busy day. Di talked about the benefits of creating Labyrinths for many different purposes, including for celebration and transition. Her book has lots of gorgeous pictures and some excellent ideas for creating different kinds of quiet spaces, as does her website which features work she is engaging with all over Scotland:

We have some schools that are looking at using Labyrinths as part of their work in transition and I look forward to hearing from them about how their different projects go and the impact on their communities.

Skimming Stones

This is a lovely little book, full of brilliant ideas for taking time out in nature to reconnect with ourselves, each other and the world. Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley provide lots of examples of how engaging with nature can even help us to step inside another dimension.

They write that ‘…there are forces deep in everyone’s subconscious that find a pure expression in the simplest of activities. This book explains why we should be taking the time to do them. It is born out of a wish to share our passion for our landscape and the contemplative, reflective pleasures and joys that were well-known to our grandparents, but which are in danger of being lost and forgotten. They will help us get back to a place where we all belong’.

Find out more about these creative outdoor learners: 

Rob Cowen, Leo Critchley

New Woodland Play Resource from Grounds for Learning

Grounds for Learning have been working in Scottish schools on a project that looks at the impact of using natural environments and materials for outdoor play on children’s social, emotional and physical well-being. The aim of the Woodland Play project was to find out how woodlands in or adjacent to schools could be made accessible for regular play during break times. With support from Inspiring Scotland and the Forestry Commission, GFL embarked on a 2-year project with 6 Scottish primary schools that recognised the potential of their woodlands for play but who needed help to turn their aspirations into reality.

The results have greatly benefitted the whole community of the school in every way and a great new short film lets you hear directly from the parents, teachers, pupils and supervisors themselves. There is also a lovely series of case studies from Scottish schools: 

Dalmeny Primary
Lanark Primary
Lenzie Moss Primary
Longstone Primary
Redhall Primary
St Ronan’s Primary 

More information can also be found in a new resource from Learning through Landscapes called Woodland Play.