Exploring Edinburgh!

Whilst Steph and I had Stephanie’s friend from America, Apshara, over for the week. We thought we should take a trip to the capital to show her a little more of Scotland. Perfect time for another Social Studies blog!

All ready for our trip to the capital with our tartan and irn bru, stereotypical Scots!

***

When we arrived in Edinburgh, we decided to go to Princes’ Street Gardens and the Wallace Monument. What I had never realised until we were looking for things to do to show Apshara was that you can go up the Wallace Monument. This is something I had walked past numerous times and never even considered. It is however, now that I know it is an option, is something I would be very interested to do at a later day because we did not have long in Edinburgh.

The Wallace Monument

At the gardens, there was a World War II Remembrance Day memorial surrounding the Wallace Monument. The memorial was hundreds of poppies on little plaques to represent the fallen who had served our country during World War II. This, in my opinion, felt like a representation of Flanders Field. Although I had never studied the poem Flanders Field in school, the memorial gave a very apparent representation of the image I had in my mind of Flanders Field. It was, personally, a very touching memorial.

The World War II Remembrance Day Memorial in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial did not immediately seem relevant to a blog post or my assignment but as I have sat down to write this post, the relevance to my assignment is indisputable. The critical viewpoint of history’s place in the Curriculum for Excellence in short can be argued in two lights. One by the postmodernist views which state that history and some sources validity must be questions as accounts are in their view simply stories and the relevance of those stories must therefore be questioned. On the other hand, the relevance of understanding our heritage, how society was formed and understanding key world events such as World War II is critical to children’s understanding of the world but must be taught with relevance to the world and their lives today for example through Interdisciplinary Learning topics which also focus on issues in current society. This has all come into my social studies assignment. I felt the memorial did a spectacular job of capturing the importance of World War II in today’s society and it really moved me personally.

Part of the memorial was the ‘Tree of Thanks’. The Tree was to allow for people to thank someone or the fallen for the things they do/have done for them. This, to me, allowed for a personal element to the memorial and there were a lot of beautiful messages to both people’s chosen person and the fallen. This allowed for time to think and reflect on what the fallen have done for our country and what other people do for you every day. My Tartan Heart (Tartan, anything piece of our Scottish heritage I did not immediately think so) was of course dedicated to my mum. My mum (and dad) have done so much for me especially over the last few years I have been at university and I always think it is important to thank them.

The memorial really got me thinking as I had never seen any World War II Remembrance Memorial like this before. Although it has not really helped me understand the significance of teaching World War II as a standalone topic still, it has helped me to acknowledge that this is still an important issue in contemporary society.

***

As a newfound big fan of the Scottish Museum, I thought this would be the perfect place to show Apshara a little bit more of Scotland and our heritage as a country. However, as a we got there quite late and they were closing from the top down, we never got to go to the ‘A Changing Nation’ section which I felt from my last trip here was the most relevant section to our lives and had the most information that would be interesting to Apshara.

However, this meant we went to a section of the Museum that Katie and I did not get to explore. Although we were only there for an hour and on top of the last trip, still did not feel like long enough. We went into the technology section on the ground and fifth floor which was purely for enjoyment and it was great fun. Stephanie had said previously ‘I am not sure I am going to enjoy a museum’ as I hyped up the place. This was the three of them after a great hour of fun!

Three clearly amused adults!

Stephanie’s parting words ‘this was great fun, we have to come back when it is fully open!’.

The clear enjoyment.

This comment alone only strengthened my opinion that although the museum is a huge place and there is a lot to do which makes it important, for the trip as a learning experience, to have a set area or task to focus on to keep control of the class and the experience. It is also important to allow children a chance to enjoy other sections that may interest them. These experiences, I feel from personal experience as a child on school trips, are what made me remember the trips and therefore the learning that took place. The fun and enjoyment as crucial parts to learning inside and out with the classroom but of course for risk assessments and health and safety especially outside need to be controlled by the teachers.

***

The trip to Edinburgh as a whole was unexpectedly really worthwhile. It was a great stimulus for some serious thought into issues which are relevant to my current learning regarding social studies and an opportunity to broaden my own opinions and knowledge.

Embracing my Inner Child (and the wind)!

Ok, so all my friends from the Central Belt of Scotland talked of great trips of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for class trips. Being a ‘Northern’, I had never been and was a little jealous. So, with the elective as a great excuse, Katie and I set off to Edinburgh for a day trip to the museum.

 

I walked into the museum and was overwhelmed by the size of the place, there isn’t anything up north quite as big. In the museum, there are sections for Scotland, Science and Technology, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fasion and the Natural World as well as the special exhibit section. There is so much in the Museum of Scotland, I as a 21-year-old adult, found it hard to focus at first. There was just so much to play with in the Technology section which we just so happened to walk into first. Another considerable difference, was the amount of children who were in the museum. Whenever I have been on any other of my trips, the children have been scarce. In the museum, there was a plethora of children in the technology section. This showed to me, this maybe a very good trip as the children would choose to come here but on the other hand, it may not be such a good trip if you worked in the local area as the children may have already been and therefore, may not be as interested in the museum.

 

This made me think as a teacher, there would have to a thorough plan in place for a trip to the Museum of Scotland as it would be quite easy to derail from the purpose of the trip. However, I would also not be opposed to timetabling in free time for the children to explore a section such as the technology section as it was highly interesting and I feel a class of primary 6’s or 7’s could be trusted to enjoy the free time sensible and come back to a designated point at a given time. This could be done with a younger class as well but I suppose it goes on how well you know and can trust your own class rather than a set age.

After spending probably a little too much time having fun, we only had two hours in the museum, Katie and I ventured up to the top of the museum for the section “Scotland: A Changing Nation”. This section I found really interesting as well. The majority of the exhibits in this section I could personally relate to. Although the exhibition was dated from 1900 to the present day, I felt like I knew most of the exhibits on show. This section really made me think about how much of Scottish History I have been a part of, from the best parts such as Glasgow 2014 to the worst drop in oil Aberdeen has ever seen, to exciting changes in history such as the voting aged being dropped for the Scottish Referendum to 16 years old.

 

A Changing Nation, I felt did really well at including the whole of Scotland in the exhibit which isn’t always the case in other museums, they tend to be focussed a particularly era or part of Scotland. In this section, Katie learnt I wasn’t lying when I asked Foos your doos? or fit like I’day? And told her these were real words when she watched a video from the people of Scotland. Both of us, were very fond of this video, it really encapsulated Scotland and our heritage. This section took us from more recent history straight through to the modern day. It helped me personally to understand where we had come from in perspective to where we are currently and how we as a nation have evolved over time. I feel to fully understand where we are, we must understand our heritage which in my own opinion is key in the rationale for teaching history.

As we ventured down the stairs into Industry and Empire, the 19th century section, we began to quickly get bored.

 

Whilst in the Industry and Empire section and even further down the Scottish history timeline and sections, although we did still feel there was a lot of information to take in and we did not see the significance to our lives as learners and questioned the relevance to children in our potential classes. We felt if we ourselves as learners were bored, we would struggle to engage children in a lesson in this section. Therefore, personally, if I were to take a class, unless it was specific to the topic they were learning about at the time, I would perhaps limit the Scotland section to only Scotland: A Changing Nation and the more modern history which children could relate to.

As I stated at the beginning, there were a variety of different sections and we unfortunately did not get to visit them all. However, we did have a quick look at the Art, Design and Fashion section. Katie had a class who were designing hats as part of a project with the V&A Dundee in her placement school last year and she felt they would have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibits in this section. Katie felt this would have inspired their designs and inspired the children to be as creative as they liked with their hats. On the other hand, to myself, I wouldn’t have thought to take a class to this section as a teacher as although I thought the dresses and hats were pretty to look at, I did not feel myself gaining anything as a learner. Therefore, it shows, given the right topic this could be a great stimulus for learning and thus we must remain open minded to different sections of the museums for different topics and not just continue to use the same section or exhibits.

We also had brief look at the Age of Oil special exhibit. The Age of Oil exhibit was looking at the Oil industry mainly with the focus on Aberdeen. The Oil industry is a significant part of my life. I grew up spending my weekends playing at the Harbour with my grandparents. Both my dad, sister and at least one of my best friends, Findlay, currently work in the oil industry. It is hugely significant in Aberdeen. It is a big employer and has many jobs, to the point my dad, sister and Findlay all work in oil but neither work in the same company and neither of them even have similar jobs. However, neither of them work off shore either. Baring this in mind, here are my thoughts of the exhibit.

So far, I feel I enjoyed this trip the most out of all of the previous trips. There is so much that can be done in the museum and we couldn’t have possibly looked in depth at everything in the short amount of time we went so we did focus on Technology and Science and Scotland: A Changing Nation. We chose to do that as we felt those sections were most relevant to ourselves as learners and felt they would be most relevant to the children in our future classes.

 

Overall, here are our thoughts from the trip:

 

It was a very educational but fun day out! I had a great time embracing my inner child. Definitely recommend a visit!

Take a Wonder into the Woods

As the old favourite goes – if you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.

After missing my placement lifestyle of being so relaxed and enjoying nature, that and after reading ‘Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children’ (Wells and Evans, 2003) – I decided to drag my flat mate, Steph, on a stroll around the country park nearest our flat. What I anticipated to just be a wonder around a picturesque park was quite different. I did not realise all of the different activities the country parks had to offer for families/children.

The first weekend, we visited Crombie Country Park. Crombie Country Park had multiple different walking routes the longest walk being around the loch and only at a distance of 2 and 3/4 miles with another 3 slightly shorter routes as well. Before we went off on our walk, I was not aware of what Crombie had to offer, especially for children, even the spectacular scenic views surprised me. Amongst the beautiful scenery however there were a host of surprises to keep the children entertained. There were activities such as find the giants, an orienteering course with different levels and little woodland “animals” hidden around our walk.

img_2374       img_2551

Find the Giants in the trees

img_2547 img_2549

Part of the orienteering course for the children

img_2553 img_2552

The hidden animals

img_2550 img_2548

No excuse to not take the children here!

Crombie Country Park also had the facilities for tree top trails, a play park, a young naturalist programme on a Saturday and a picnic/bbq area. Amongst this, there ranger team are on hand for activities such as arts and crafts or guided walks as well as school trips from nursery through to secondary to assist teachers and lead outdoor activities in the park.

A week later, after still being in awe at Crombie, Steph and I headed out to Monikie Country Park just across from Crombie. Whilst Monikie has less trails to offer that we could find, they were currently hosting the Dragon Matrix, which I am devastated I never managed to go to, which took up a lot of the park forrest areas. However, Monikie had a beautiful walk around the lake, a play park for children, a huge green space and lots of picnic tables where a few families were enjoying a picnic. Even with all of these facilities and resources, there were only two or three families at Monikie as well.

img_2555 img_2554

The Dragon Matrix – cross curricular learning – outdoor education, art and technology!

img_2557 img_2556

Perfect for the family – a beautiful walk and a great play park.

However, even with all of these different activities and play parks for the children, both Monikie and Crombie Country Parks were surprisingly quiet. There were only one or maybe two families that Steph and I noticed in either of the two parks. Considering the fact we went on a weekend, during the afternoon, once I realised all of the activities and the park, I did expect there to be more families at the parks. As after Steph and I had discussed, this is what my of our parents would have taken us to do on a weekend when we were younger. This made me really reflect on my recent reading about outdoor education particularly this quote below from Adam (2013, p.524).

“Accompanying the obesity concerns are fears for children’s safety which are leading to increased indoor activities (Jenkinson 2001; Palmer 2006; Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008). This trend towards children being ushered indoors has occurred despite the fact that statistics about risk outside the home are relatively small compared to parental fears (Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008; Layard and Dunn 2009).”

This shows thimg_2558at due to parents fears in this contemporary society and the desire to keep their children safe, they’re wrapping their children up in cotton wool and not allowing/taking them outside to experience these amazing resources and opportunities that the Country Parks offer.

Steph and I are determined to make these walks a weekly event with Forfar Loch Country Park next on our list. I would definitely recommend taking a break from all of the assignment or work and getting yourself to one of the country park to see all of the fantastic natural resources and activities they can offer for yourself or for your class. Why be stressed when you can go play outside and call it educational?

 

References 

Adam, K. (2013) ‘Childhood in Crisis? Perceptions of 7-11 year olds on being a child and the implications for education’s well-being agenda’ in Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 41(3) pp.523-537 London: Routledge

The Right to Play – Are Scotland Doing Enough?

In 1989, the United Nations introduced the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991.

In the Convention on the Rights of the Child article 31 states that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” (Unicef, No Date Given, p.9). I am interested to investigate if Scotland are doing enough in the early stages of a child’s life to allow them to engage in play. I have recently been looking at Sweden’s education system for the early years and their outlook on childhood and play. I am going to compare the two systems to see if Scotland are doing enough to allow children to play.

The first crucial difference in the two educational systems is the school starting stage. In Scotland children start school between the ages of 4 and 5 where as in Sweden children do not start school until the age of 7. In Sweden, the children however do go to preschool from a very early age – this is heavily funded by the government to support parents who are working or in education themselves – it roughly costs around £7.50 per day including food per child. The children leave preschool with no knowledge or learning of reading and writing at the age of 7 however by the age of 10 there is no difference in the league tables for reading and writing in Sweden with any other country. Parents and the Government believe that children should have the chance to play and develop before they begin school which is why they go to preschool to develop their social skills.

On the other hand, in Scotland, from as early as possible children are sent to school to learn to read and write. The government suggest they do this to allow parents to go back to work/education as early as possible. However, this means that from an early age children are taking away from the right to play and are made to begin their learning through planned lessons where as in the early years in Sweden the children have no planned lessons giving them the freedom to play and explore, particularly in the outdoors – a huge part of the Swedish Education system is based upon their push for outdoor education and play. Comparing this to Sweden and the league table results suggests immediately we are not doing enough to encourage play in the early years of childhood which is a right of the child.

However, in the Early Learning and Childcare Entitlement produced by the Scottish Government (No Date Given, No Page) it states that the Scottish Government are continually trying to improve the standard of early learning as well as its flexibility and cost for all families. Since August 2014, children, aged between 3 and 4/5 years old (for the majority of children – there are cases where it is from the age of 2 years old), in Scotland are entitled to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare. This gives children the chance for meaningful play to encourage children socialising from a young age before going to school. However, in comparison to Sweden although they have to pay for their preschool, it is a small expense as it is heavily subsidised by their government, children can attend preschool to play for a much longer period from as early as a parent wants to the age of 7. This gives the child more opportunity and time for meaningful play before entering school than there is in Scotland.

There are opportunities for play in the Scottish Education System, enough to meet the right of the child in article 31. However, I personally feel that the Scottish Government could be doing more to encourage play particularly at a young age especially in comparison to the Swedish Education System.

 

References

Scottish Government (No Date Given) Early Learning and Childcare Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/parenting-early-learning/childcare (Accessed on 20/01/16)

Unicef (No Date Given) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_PRESS200910web.pdf (Accessed on 20/01/16)