Breathing Life into the Curriculum

A lovely letter in the TESS a while ago from Mary Jackson, who is development adviser with Learning through Landscapes (operating in Scotland as Grounds for Learning). There is growing concern that many children are being ‘raised indoors’ and that they are therefore missing out on a childhood rich in outdoor experience and healthy outdoor play and adventure. Reflecting on how Scottish teachers are making the most of  Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning she comments, ‘some Scottish schools are already breathing life into their curriculum by taking it outdoors in inspiring and innovative ways.’ Too true!

Mary is writing to introduce us to a new global network of organisations who share a commitment to the development of school grounds for learning and play.  The International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) has been co-founded by Learning through Landscapes (UK), Evergreen (Canada) and Bay Tree Design (USA) and offers abundant resource and materials to stimulate and support creative school grounds design. There is an open invitation for any organisation or individual interested in joining with others to take forward this important work to visit the ISGA website :

National Network for Outdoor Learning Meeting 5

The National Network for Outdoor Learning recently gathered at Camperdown Country Park in Dundee for their first meeting of the 2012/2013 session. The network is made up of representatives from each of our 32 local authorities (a lead education officer and a SAPOE officer) as well as partners from key national outdoor learning organisations and groups. Our remit is to

  1. work together to generate innovation and creativity in outdoor learning practice, especially as regards Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning (CfEtOL) and Building Your Curriculum Outside and In BYCOI)
  2. take forward a cohesive whole community approach to CfEtOL at a strategic local and establishment level
  3. share our emerging practice and to support and encourage each other in those developments
  4. cultivate genuinely new approaches to learning and teaching through high quality professional learning and development programmes
  5. most importantly, increase opportunities for children and young people to regularly and frequently access their learning across the curriculum through a broad range of high quality experiences in outdoor learning.

Here is some of our group reflecting on how well things in outdoor learning are moving forward strategically in our nation. Ali Hammerton drew us a map of Scotland in chalk and we used a series of weather symbols to feedback from our experiences of working on implementing CfEtOL in our own contexts. The overall picture was one of very ‘sunny’ weather – a bright outlook created by all the great work going on in local authorities from launching their Council outdoor learning strategies, to increasing opportunities for all children and young people to engage in literacy and numeracy outdoors and to creating new programmes for adventure and residential activity based on geography, technologies, sciences and history.

At lunchtime, we were delighted to join a large crowd of local people attending the launch of Dundee Partnership’s outdoor learning strategy. Thanks to Derek Napier, Outdoor Education Team Leader for Dundee, we were treated to a fabulous display of outdoor activity and to some fine speeches outlining the benefits of outdoor learning for all ages and communities.

We spent some time hearing from network members about how they were taking CfEtOL in their own contexts. Many thanks to John Garvie, chair of Highland Outdoor Learning Group, who shared the development of Highland’s Outdoor Learning strategy and the work that is going into its implementation. Willie White from East Ayrshire outlined the process that his local authority strategy group has gone through in developing their approach to outdoor learning and Sue Thorburn from Aberdeen City shared how their many 3-18 Places Projects are bringing literacy alive in the outdoors as a key part of their stratgic implementation of CfEtOL. 

The final part of our day together was spent hearing from members sharing their expertise in developing an outdoor nursery, curriculum links to the land use strategy, professional recognition in outdoor learning and in planning for the Year of Natural Scotland.  What a wonderful day – so encouraging to be with people who are totally committed to supporting outdoor learning across Scotland with such passion and strength!

Community Mentors Workshop 1st/2nd November Perth

Kerry Riddell from the Conservation Volunteers sends through the following information about a community mentors workshops coming up in November:

The Conservation Volunteers Community Mentors Programme is developing a network of Community Mentors throughout Scotland through a series of regional training and support programmes. This highly regarded programme has already trained 200 mentors throughout Scotland to inspire their own communities to take action to protect and improve the environment and work towards more sustainable lifestyles. 

The 2 day training workshop provides participants with the skills and knowledge to raise awareness and inspire action in their own communities. Participants also work on developing their own unique skills, producing Action Plans for their communities and learning tools to take forward practical Community Projects to improve the local environment and take action for a more sustainable planet. After the workshop, participants can access support from local TCV Scotland staff and will be provided with resources and access to national and local skills sharing and networking events through our Community Network. 

The Perth workshop will be held at  The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, The Old Granary, West Mill Street, Perth, PH1 5QP –  lunch will be provided. For information about how to book please see the flyer below: 

30 Comm Mentor Perth (3)

Apple Day at Holyrood with Fruitful Schools

John Hancox and the Fruitful Schools team hosted a corker of an event at Holyrood recently to celebrate Apple Day.

Guests at the event feasted on applepie, applecake, applejuice and many varieties of heritage apples. John Hancox writes the following about the event:

‘Thanks to everyone – especially the sponsoring MSPs and their staff – and events team at the Parliament, Gill Orr, John Hay, Henry Paul and Nicky McIntyre  for bringing part of the apple collection, the other half coming from me,  Kelly McIntyre, Margaret Welch for the apple gifts, Rowena Statt for the awards certificates, Reuben Chester of Locavore and Helen Blackburn for Salvation Army for the fantastic apple pies and cake,  and the many other people who helped out on the day, or who just came along. I’d urge people to join Scottish Orchards – which is a Scotland wide network of fruit growing enthusiasts – and help us to create a Fruitful Scotland.

We spoke yesterday about the work with school and community orchards, and with encouraging small holders and farmers to start to look at growing fruit commercially in Scotland again. In the years since we have started to awards these Holyrood Apple Days there has been great progress towards our dream of a Fruitful Scotland. Our Fruitful Schools project has been really successful launched with Government support in 2010. The Central Scotland Green Network have put some money into an Orchard grant scheme which is also good news for those in Central Scotland. It’s encouraging that businesses and private landowners such as Atholl Estate continue to help support community orchard planting. 

I was personally delighted to be able to make our Fruitful Scotland Awards to Ferryhill Primary, to  City of Glasgow College, Upward Mobility, Atholl Estates, Coffee Conscience, Hilary Fraser. I also am delighted that John Butterworth was able to come and receive his award – truly for inspiring this movement – and a Lifetime Award for Services to Fruit! I also was pleased that we could give our wee Awards to Sarah Boyak MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP, Alex Fergusson MSP, Jim Hume MSP, and Jean Urquhart MSP. ‘

Well done John for bringing us together for such a wonderful event! 

Outdoor Learning Winners in the Cairngorms National Park

Learning outdoors in the Cairngorms National Park is proving to be a winning combination as schools in the area celebrate their success in the first ever Outdoor Learning Awards.

Organised by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), the Outdoor Learning Awards are set to be a biennial event. Winners receive a certificate, £300 to spend on outdoor learning and a flag to proudly show visitors and the community their achievements.

Winners of Lower Primary category, Aviemore Primary School, are extremely delighted to be able to hoist up their flag outside their brand new building. They have been studying biodiversity and produced an interesting report about taking part in the RSPB ‘Every Child Outdoors’ event.

Presenting them with their prizes, CNPA vice-convener Brian Wood said: “There is no better outdoor classroom than the Cairngorms National Park and the entries we received for the Outdoor Learning Competition demonstrate that pupils and teachers are very inspired by the environment around us. As a former teacher I know that getting children into the outdoors for learning can help stir their imaginations and capture their interest.

“We are very fortunate to have this resource on our doorstep and from science to history and from geography to art; there isn’t a subject in the curriculum that can’t be taken outdoors. We hope that the competition will help raise awareness among young people about what the National Park is about and the responsibility we all share for looking after this special place.”

Other winners were Abernethy Nursery who produced a big Forest School Book containing lots of photos of them enjoying local woodlands and Abernethy Primary School who submitted their report of the local tourism industry in the area. Grantown Grammar School were also successful with their competition entry which was a film all about their John Muir Award experiences detailing what they had learned. The Bridge Intensive Support Unit in Inverness were awarded for their powerpoint presentation which showed the activities they took part in the Cairngorms National Park and detailing what they had learned from their experiences.

The competition was open to schools and education facilities from all over Scotland who had used the Cairngorms National Park as a topic for their outdoor learning either remotely or by visiting the Park. The next competition will be in 2014.

Alan Smith, Outdoor Learning Officer at the CNPA commented: “This has been a great start to the Cairngorms National Park Outdoor Learning Awards, we received entries that showed the breadth of outdoor learning opportunities in the National Park and they were all of a very high standard; very well done to everyone who took part!”