Category Archives: Citizen Science

Game of Cones

protreeWe really need to encourage a new generation of plant health professionals. Just think what life would be like if the resources we get from plants like food, timber and medicine were to be in short supply. Trees in Britain provide us with some stark examples of plant health problems. Since the 1970’s a fungus called Dutch elm disease has killed between 25 and 75 million elms. Today it is still spreading in northern Scotland. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example. The Forestry Commission website lists seven pests and 13 diseases that currently threaten British trees. The problem continues to grow and the rate at which new problems arrive has been accelerated through accidental import as a result of global trade. Recently there has been considerable media coverage of tree health problems, often with dire predictions for the future.

Rather than just wringing our hands we need to do something about this situation. This is why a group of Scottish researchers have taken the unusual step of working with a computer games company to develop CALEDON a survival strategy game about tree health. Their aim is to switch on the younger generation to tree health through the very popular medium of computer games. Any biologist will tell you that diversity of species and diversity of genes within species creates resilience. The old saying about the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket is absolutely spot-on in the context of plant health. So why is it that our forestry practices have for so long focussed on single species plantations that are often of restricted genetic diversity?

This question is at the hearth of CALEDON which has been developed as part of the outreach and education programme of the PROTREE project and has seen project scientists from seven Scottish research institutes working together. Designed to be an enjoyable game, inspired by the popularity of virtual worlds, CALEDON challenges players to keep a forest thriving under a series of different scenarios with different objectives that include tree species diversity and forest cover. Players choose what trees to plant and have to work within the limits of available funds. Income can be generated by tree felling and pest and diseases have to be contended with. The learning to develop an effective strategy in the game comes from prompts that appear during gameplay and from exploration of the games encyclopaedia.

CALEDON is aimed at early teens and has good links to the curriculum at Level 3 and 4, but experience has shown that much younger players enjoy the game and do understand how to develop successful strategy. Although it is a single player game small group discussion around how to keep the forest thriving is possible as the player is completely in control of the pace of the game and clicks a button to advance time by five years after making as many changes as they like or can afford to do. The game can be played online at and can also be downloaded for offline play. An iPad version of the game is available at the App Store.


LfS Showcase for Stirling and Clackmannanshire Schools and Centres

LfS wordcloud

Looking for great ideas for learning for sustainability, outdoor learning, children’s right and global citizenship for your school or centre?

Want to meet other centres/schools and meet partner organisations who can support your work?

If so, come along to the Learning for Sustainability (LfS) showcase event from 16:15 – 17:45 on Tuesday 4th October 2016 in Stirling High School, Torbrex Farm Rd, Stirling FK8 2PA.

The event is being organised through a partnership with Education Scotland and Stirling and Clackmannanshire Councils. It is open to teachers and learners and will include displays and stalls from early learning, primary and secondary schools and centres from across Stirling and Clackmannanshire. Find out about all the benefits of learning for sustainability and how it can promote great learning; help increase motivation to learn; raise attainment; develop skills; enhance community spirit and partnerships; and promote health and wellbeing. Schools and centres will be explaining all the practical and achievable steps they have taken to develop whole school approaches to learning for sustainability (LfS) by building on their existing global citizenship, outdoor learning, sustainable development education and children’s right’s activities. There’ll be opportunities too to find a buddy school to collaborate with and share practice going forward.

A number of local and national partner organisations will be on hand too to explain more about their resources and programmes and how they can offer practical support, advice and professional learning opportunities. Organisations include:

  • John Muir Award
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful/Eco-Schools Scotland
  • British Council
  • Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
  • Food for Life/Soil Association
  • OPAL Community Scientists/The Conservation Volunteers
  • Community Resilience/Emergency Planning Officers
  • Forth Environment Link…and more

With Learning for Sustainability embedded within How Good is Our School 4? and the GTCS Professional Standards there’s never been a better to time to find out more about how LfS can improve outcomes for learners. The refresh of the Eco-Schools Scotland programme also offers many existing opportunities relating to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and themes relating to LfS.

The event is open to all and is free. If you can, please let us know in advance if you plan to come by emailing Helen Winton at:

‘Our Environment’ competition deadline extended.

The ‘OuStirling HS John Muir Award Group Survey image 1 (2)r Environment Competition’ is a great way of engaging young people with their local environment and conservation issues.

Children identify and collect information about an issue in their local environment, collate the information and propose a solution.

Submit your entry as a presentation, poster, leaflet, video or photo storyboard – or maybe you can think of another creative way.

Have you already been working on an environmental project? You can use what you have found out and produced for this competition!

The winning entry will get £1000!

Find out more here.

After much interest the closing date has been extended to Friday April 10th.