Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shannaghmore Outdoor Education Centre

28 June pm
Shannaghmore Outdoor Education Centre Newcastle Northern Ireland

This afternoon was spent with Andy Carden from Shannaghmore Outdoor Education Centre.  A similar organisation to a Camp School in Western Australia.  However due to their location they are able to offer a wide range of outdoor experiences.  I was keen to see how an organisation of this nature linked in to schools and their outdoors programs.  This was different from many of my previous visits however a worthwhile addition to my Fellowship, from an independent organisations viewpoint that is involved with schools.

Andy’s official title is as a Warden, but he is essentially the Manager of Shannaghmore Outdoor Centre and was very generous with his time both discussing the centre and giving me a tour of the centre which was really appreciated.  Basically the centre offers residential placements for a variety of varying levels of “adventure” outdoor activities for both school students and teacher leadership training.  The Centre is subsidised by their Education Department which keeps costs down allowing many less well off students a cost effective residential outdoor camp experience.  Primary School residential camps usually run for 2 ½ days but can go for up to 6 days although the longer residential camps occur less  infrequently.  9 similar centres exist across different education districts in Northern Ireland .  Youth groups utilize the facility on weekends.

Due to its location in Newcastle it is nestled between Dundrum Bay (Irish Sea) and the Mourne Mountains, it is able to offer mountain, lake and sea based activities.   Specific activities offered include hill walking, orienteering, wet bouldering, climbing, and first aide leadership courses for staff.  The real focus of these leadership courses is to get the teacher taking their own classes outdoors.

Primary involvement is not linked directly to the curriculum unless schools specifically request so.  Student focus is really simply to experience the outdoors.  For many students this is their first experience in the outdoors.  Andy spoke of urbanised students who needed to  for example learn how to walk on rocky uneven surfaces as they had no previous experience. 

Andy took me on a tour of the centre which was well equipped with a large repository of resources to enhance outdoor experiences and ensure conditions outside didn’t detract from students learning opportunities.  Included in the store was the following equipment which would be of benefit to any school undertaking an outdoor program.
-                      Wellington boots;
-                      walking boots;
-                      wet weather gear raincoats and wet weather pants
-                      binoculars;
-                      pond dipping nets, buckets, magnifying glasses;
-                      jumpers;
-                      and litter bags

One element of the  centre is assisting with the John Muir Awards. One aim is to leave wild areas in a better state than they find them.  Litter bags are always taken into the woods and collecting, and cleaning up sites archives one on the John Muir aims of leaving a natural area better than you find it.  A real focus of the John Muir Awards is for disadvantaged children.  As part of this Award they get involved with exploring, canoeing, walking, wildlife habitat, environmental care and pond dipping.

Andy suggested a good contact for school grounds would be Liz Wallace of the Magilligan Field Centre. .  Also  which is the institute for outdoor learning.


Emma Strong said...

Dare I ask... did you need that duvet jacket even in Summer? And hey, I would have thought that urbanised students were used to walking on rocky, uneven surfaces, as the Councils in UK seem to take forever to fix up pavements.
Mad Maths at Withers today, and some of that is happening outdoors. Can I borrow that duvet jacket?

Stuart Cumming said...

Yes it was raining really hard. Cleared up now though. Thanks for keeping in touch Emma. Really apriciate it.

Hope all goes well with Mad Maths day.


Neil McAllister said...

Hi Stuart

Never been to Shannaghmore. Sounds super. Did you love the Mourne Mountains. Go walking down there quite a bit and never tire of the views. We do an outdoor activities week to Share Centre in County Fermanagh. Kids just love being outdoors! Have you ever been on a banana boat??


Stuart Cumming said...

G'day Neil...unfortunately the Mourne Mountains were covered in mist and rain, so couldn't see them!Went on a banana boat with my boys in Bali a few years ago. Today was the last day of my Fellowship, so now on our school holidays (WA) for a week before leaving UK and flying home. Just writing up my last blog now..has been a brilliant trip..and recommend anyone applying for a amazing experience and opportunity. Stuart


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