At the end of last term I had the privilege of delivering an in-set day in Dumfries and Galloway that was hosted by St Mungo Primary School. I had been looking forward to the day, not least because half of the activities were undertaken in their local woodland.
The whole site has been improved with very low cost measures. Below is one of many palettes that has been used as boardwalks throughout the site. These were free, donated by a local sawmill.
This is the main gathering area. Again the children, with the help of the rangers, have created enough seating for the whole school of 40 children.
Last Christmas there was a surprise for the children. The rangers had made family name tags for each bench. The children work in “family” groups comprising of children of mixed ages. These are named after the wildlife observed in the wood.
The spare wood has been left on site. I saw it used in several homemade dens and shelters tucked away in bushes.
The younger children tend to spend a morning on site. The older class stay for the whole day. When a school uses the same site on a regular basis, then consideration about how and where to let people go to the toilet has to happen. Here’s the solution at St Mungo…
Firstly, the path that leads up to the toilet is a dead end. It’s not part of any other path network. It’s identifiable by the long fallen down tree trunk.
Although it’s hard to see in the photo, there is a chicken wire fence that covers the entrance behind the base of the fallen down tree.
There is a natural dip in the ground which provides extra seclusion. A small pit has been dug and the children can use this area. The staff have found that the children tend not to need the toilet as much when in the woods. Everyone goes to the toilet beforehand.
Throughout the site I stumbled upon interesting objects and situations. The sheep skull is near the benches for children to examine.
“Careful planning will help identify when and where staff in an establishment would benefit from working with partners or partner organisations to progress and increase outdoor learning experiences. There are many creative and stimulating ways to experience practical activities which may best be achieved by partners working in the school grounds or the local area
…partnerships can contribute to learners’ personalisation and choice by providing pathways and opportunities for children and young people to develop their learning and skills in new ways.
…specialist partners, who may be professionals or volunteers with expertise in areas such as school ground architecture, adventure activities or forest school practices, can offer invaluable technical knowledge and guidance. Volunteer partners can make the difference to outdoor learning experiences becoming viable.”
It was evident that the skills and knowledge of the rangers have been used to enhance the project. Yet the staff plan and organise the learning activities, and have sessions on-site without ranger support.
The poster below sums up the value of the project…
“Once a season, the Lockerbie Wildlife Trust and the DGC Annandale and Eskdale Rangers take the school to learn about the great outdoors. From dandelion wishes to frog spawn, and bird boxes to bridge building, the children learn in an area they can call their own.”
This past year, the Forestry Commission Scotland asked me to write a series of case studies looking at woods for learning projects taking place around Scotland. These are now available on the Education Scotland website. Read, enjoy and be inspired to take your children to the woods this year…