2009 – A Review

3 January 2010 · 5 comments

in Creative STAR Blurb

It’s been a busy year here at Creative STAR Learning Company. I think what pleases me most is the level of collaboration which has taken place between the consultants and many other organizations who are working hard to maximize the opportunities for learning outdoors. Here’s a review what we’ve been up to this past year.

The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Forest Kindergarten Feasibility Study was a major undertaking which involved an in-depth survey to all 660 pre-school and partner providers and finding suitable woodland sites across the eight local authorities. The aim was to put together a detailed set of data to enable the newly appointed Forest Kindergarten Officer to set up a pilot project which was officially launched at the beginning of December.

The TeachingSpace Scottish Natural Heritage website content was up-dated by Toni Clark, Lynnette Borradaile and myself. This work will contribute to the major revamp that is happening as part of increasing the amount of online outdoor learning resources by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Penny Martin, Toni and I continued to undertake work on behalf of Grounds for Learning. The RBS Supergrounds Award scheme has seen us visit several schools to support the development of school grounds across the north of Scotland. We’ve undertaken site visits and in-service day training too. Visit the Grounds for Learning website to find out more about school grounds developments across Scotland. Penny also undertook a joint contract with GfL to provide resources for school estate managers to support biodiversity in the development of new and refurbished school buildings. This was a contract for Scottish Natural Heritage.

Lynnette and Toni worked in conjunction with Ruth Grant to deliver Ranger Training to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Ranger Team in January 2009. This was followed by a week-long Scottish Countryside Rangers Association introductory training session which took place in March at Kindrogan Field Studies Centre.

Ginger Franklin and myself worked with Catherine Morgan, the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum (SESEF) Education Officer to develop the Ice Age Free in-service day focusing on Scottish landscapes. Ginger has since continued to work with SESEF on their Darwin Project.

SESEF continued throughout 2009 to focus on outdoor learning as a key priority. In conjunction with Angus Miller we have been preparing the Primary Earth Science Outdoors pack which will soon be available to download.

On behalf of the Forestry Commission Scotland I wrote the Teaching Teachers pack for forest rangers who deliver CPD in various forms to education staff. This was a mixture of workshop activities and advice about working with Scottish schools.

In March, the Centre of Confidence and Wellbeing asked me to write the website section Learning and Playing Outdoors. This forward thinking charity has a website that provides a broad spectrum of thought-provoking commentary on a wide range of subjects relating to well being within the Scottish culture.

Learning and Teaching Scotland have increased the emphasis on outdoor learning. As from January 2010 there are currently 4 full-time outdoor learning officers working principally on putting together a National Framework for Outdoor Learning. Creative STAR have been involved in mapping outdoor learning to a Curriculum for Excellence and other bits and pieces of work that contribute towards developing outdoor learning at a strategic level.

I have been facilitating or delivering 25 workshops and in-service day training sessions in the latter part of 2009. Aberdeen City Early Years Services have demonstrated a huge commitment and belief in the benefits of learning outside. They have bought the services of Creative STAR and Mindstretchers to deliver training. On top of that the Nature Nurture activities are providing support to the City’s most at-risk youngsters.

Lynnette has been working with RSPB Scotland and the East Scotland Sea Eagle Project team, advising on setting up an education programme encouraging local schools and communities to get involved with the Project. The programme will be supported by a project officer, with online newsletters, and blogs; curriculum links provided with some activities, and delivery illustrating a Storyline approach, as well as school visits. This will be launched early in 2010. Penny has had a busy autumn organising the GB Forest Education Initiative Event which included a day’s focus on Forest School activities and the Outdoor Learning Sharing Good Practice Conferences.

I found myself giving 10 presentations throughout the year. This included talking about international school grounds at the Grounds for Learning National Network event and the Aberdeen City Early Years Conference. I particularly enjoyed having to think about education in the year 2050 for the John Muir Award Gathering and the LTS Early Years Conference Play and Active Learning in October which provided an opportunity to give a more interactive presentation.

Finally Creative STAR has gone through a process of change in 2009. The company originally began as a one-person company in August 2007. In June, it became a consortium so that the consultants could bid together in a more established and purposeful way. In October, Creative STAR was recognised as a CPD provider with Learning and Teaching Scotland. In December, I received the news that in 2010 it will become a Limited Company and a Social Enterprise funded by UnLtd and 4iP. So here’s to a New Year and new possibilities…Long live learning outdoors!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Teacher Tom January 16, 2010 at 15:45

I’m so glad I’ve found your site! I have a question.

We are an urban preschool, with a small, but interesting outdoor space. I’ve been inspired recently by the outdoor school movement and have been seeding my parent community with the same enthusiasm.

Most of what I read about involves schools with immediate access to large tracts of nature. Can outdoor schools work in urban environments?



CreativeSTAR January 17, 2010 at 12:53

Hello Tom

I could say the same about your blog – it’s so enthusiastic and informative.

You are correct in that almost all outdoor nurseries have good access to a decent natural area especially in other countries.

Here in Scotland, we acknowledge the value of this and the reality of many settings. We tend to encourage all pre-schools to use their nearest greenspace even if that’s simply a park or shelter belt or a small patch of ground.

Interestingly even in Glasgow and the Clyde Valley which is a VERY urbanised area, studies have demonstrated that the majority of schools and pre-schools are within a 10-min walk from their establishments. This may not be pristine or wild but still better than a rubber surface and a colourful fence.

Two references to follow up are the Forest Kindergarten Pilot project in Glasgow & the Clyde Valley. This is the link http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-7sqjg5 If you wanted to get in touch with Karen Boyd whose details are on the website, then I know she would answer your queries. There are ten urban pre-schools involved.

Next, we have an awesome pre-school called the Cowgate Pre-5 Nursery. This is run by Lynn McNair and is an outstanding example of what a very urban pre-school can achieve with limited space and busy roads, etc. http://www.cowgateunder5s.co.uk/

Both of these projects are different to the nature pre-schools I’ve visited and read about in North America. I was lucky to visit one in Seattle. Nature Pre-schools appear (and I could be mistaken) to value a daily walk or excursion into natural places. The philosophy of outdoor nurseries is much more holistic. There is no formal teaching at all.


Teacher Tom January 18, 2010 at 16:00

Thanks for such a complete response and links!

We do have a park within easy walking distance, but we’re probably going to have to go with more of an “outside” school than a “nature” school approach. I’m to have a proposal/discussion paper done today with a goal to start implementing changes by the end of February. I’m very excited. I’m sure I’ll be using you as a primary resource!


CreativeSTAR January 18, 2010 at 16:16

Hi Tom

If it’s any help, please do contact me via my website…contact details on the bottom of every page. It may be that there’s resources or information we can share.


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