Saturday, May 29, 2010

Earth Calling Edinburgh

Day 12 Edinburgh
Today’s visit was with Gus (Angus Egan)  the Manager of Earth Calling (EC) “a virtual stomping-ground of Earth Calling, Lothian’s leading provider of inspirational, hands-on environmental education, Grounds-for-Awareness-approved grounds development and wildlife fun and experiences for primary and secondary school aged young people.”.
 I met Gus at Blackhall School, which has 300 students.  They have developed a woodland on the school site over the past 12 years. We then went to Davidsons Main PS a school which is just beginning to develop a woodland on the school site.  It was great to see one school at the beginning of its ground development journey and comparing it with a school that has an established natural resource.

Gus was involved with the Forest Schools, where groups of students were taken to local woodland areas for 1 day a week for 6 months with the focus being on teaching woodland ecology.  This approach had a major impact but on a limited number of students due to funding constraints.  The concept of bringing a woodland into your school and incorporating that into the curriculum has a far more wide ranging impact.

Earth Calling is very much a hands on approach.  They recognise learning in the classroom is important, but getting outside and experiencing a natural classroom is far more successful in ingraining learning into students.  Rather than learning from books about the Amazon Rainforest, utilising school woodlands is a far more practical approach.  Earth Calling runs after school Woodlands Clubs for a large number of Edinburgh schools.  This is funded jointly through P and C’s and local council.  Children learn to appreciate and interact with nature.  A recent after school BBQ included nettle soup, wild boar and squirrel sausage, so students were able to identify which wildlife and plants can be eaten.

Gus had a fantastic relationship with the students which I picked up on very quickly.  He talked about the success of his organisation and it being so child friendly, treating children as equals in these settings, making it a rewarding experience for all concerned.  I spoke briefly with the Head Teacher at Blackhall School who put the success of the school’s outdoor program down to being a joint partnership with a number of contributors.  Gus’s organisation Earth Calling, parents, students, community groups, staff and local businesses all contributing.

Grounds development is a long term approach.  Initially Blackmore School had a 5 year woodlands development plan, however this in now into its 12th year and the planning continues, but has no end date.  The Head Teacher commented that what made an exceptional school in grounds development was a long term consultative approach where the outdoor grounds become part of the fabric of the school.

It initially began with a Grounds for Awareness grant of L1000, however after 12 years a mature woodland boasts hedgehogs and badgers.  The badgers can be viewed on EC’s website where a night webcam has been set up. They also had a “minibeast hotel” which consisted of a box with various natural materials to encourage minibeasts, which the students had made.  To observe the minibeasts they simply pulled out a natural material which would uncover minibeasts! 

The school had student Wildlife Rangers, who were responsible for monitoring and looking after the schools woodland area.  Written applications and interviews ensured this highly sought after responsibility was allocated to eco friendly committed students.   Over 100 written applications were received for a limited number of ranger positions.

The other school visited was Davidsons Main PS.  This had a huge school ground and EC has just assisted them in developing a large woodland area within in the last month.  The area included willow thatching, a board walk with wheel chair access and a large outdoor classroom which was 30 logs randomly interspersed and to access it students had to walk through a willow tunnel.

Interestingly, both schools have ponds which were fenced and had been approved by the local council.  Earth Calling led by Gus is passionate about the environment and educating students to be earth aware and that small changes by a number of people can make a difference. Earth Calling is achieving and I was privileged that I was able to spend the morning with Gus. Link to Pictures Edinburgh


Joan said...

Great looking school with some interesting things to be seen. Great photos of Edinburgh

Tony and Antonette said...

Hi Stuart and Jen

Hope you are both well. So good to see that you are seeing lots, keeping enjoying and treasure every moment.
Antonette and Tony


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