Sunday, 19 August 2012

School's out.

I have been very interested in the issues raised during the 'Scottish Six' debates by Lesley Riddoch and Andy Wightman last week at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Sadly, due to tatty rogueing, I could not attend however I feel passionate about one particular aspect of the discussions, namely huts, community allotments and the benefits for children.

We are extremely fortunate to have a nature kindergarten in Perthshire. The children are taught outdoors in rain, hail or shine. They wear Arctic snowsuits in winter or waterproofs and wellies for rainy days.
The nursery is found in a forty acre wood, rented from the local landowner. There are huts for the children to play or cook in, my favourite being the cooking hut, an open sided, circular, wooden structure with a fire pit in the centre, benches around the sides.

The children are taught how to make and respect fire. They are given proper (child sized) saws in order to cut wood, they are taught safety, environmental awareness, seasonal awareness, animal husbandry, maths in nature, cookery plus lots of play and tree climbing.They grow and maintain their own food - potatoes, salad foods, apples plus which plants help other plants and which ones are dangerous.

The children are happy, healthy children who have a wonderful confidence and a strong sense of community. They look after each other.

Once they have 'graduated' nursery aged five, they move on to local primary schools and the feedback tends to be that they are excellent at fine motor skills eg writing, the concentration is excellent and they show a maturity understanding environmental issues.

Our son should be in Primary 1 but as I mentioned in a previous blog, transport and boundaries were a bit of a problem for us so we are continuing his education outdoors and he is responding well.
Social contact with other children/ his friends is a vital part of his life, especially one who lives quite remotely so it is our responsibility to maintain a good social diary for him.

Parents know their children best. They recognise the individual personalities, requirements, strengths, ability. Mainstream education, in my opinion, tends toward a herd provision especially a herd kept indoors. Forgive the crude analogy; Asda may sell hundreds of pairs of size five shoes but are they any good for your feet?
I wish local authorities would be open to a wider vision on education; teach children outside, let them learn and grow their own food, be aware of the seasons and local food, open areas of rivers to be fished, teach them how to grow trees, make and respect fire, get fresh air and exercise and discover a wealth of interests away from electronic gadgetry and sedentary lifestyles.
The four 'R's' are not forgotten, far from it, they can be discovered in a different form.

There are millions of acres of land and forest in Scotland, most of it privately owned and heavily subsidised.

The answer seems obvious. Free up the land, teach the children how to work and manage it and my guess would be that children would respond extremely well.
Encourage parents to connect with their children by providing huts for shelter and social interaction just like they have in Scandinavian countries. Nothing fancy, just a decent wind and watertight, warm shelter. A bothy or the like.

Sorry, I still cannot do a decent link but here is a superb article on huts

We have the wealth of potential right on our doorsteps. The resources available for education and health. Retired land workers who have years of knowledge to pass on could teach agriculture, forestry, horticulture, fishing.

Heaven knows we need to free the land from the minority who 'own' it and create an equality for all the people of Scotland (and beyond).

Look beyond the inner classroom, past the restrictions of land ownership, past the X Box and computer, obesity and narrow thinking. Unite rural and urban.

We owe at least this to our children and their children.


  1. I wish I'd have gone to a nursery like that! I do remember going outside on school trips in early primary school but I only made a campfire for the first time when I was 20. :/

  2. Thank you, Last Alliance Studios.

    I would have loved something like this as well but was put straight to school aged 5. First fire was at Brownie camp and we were not allowed near matches. Big bucket of water nearby in case things got out of control (I'm assuming for the fire and not the Brownies).

    The example given of the outdoor schools could benefit all ages, abilities and entire families.