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Journeys in nature for Kingussie pupils

2nd September 2010

Helping young people develop a sense of place, identity, values and a sense of responsibility is the aim behind a series of learning journeys that second year pupils at Kingussie High School are embarking on next week (Tuesday 7 September).

Organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and led by members of the SpeyGrian Educational Trust – a diverse group of artists, ecologists, writers, historians, musicians and educators who promote outdoor learning – more than 90 young people and ten teachers will spend the day walking, cycling, canoeing or horse riding their way through the local landscape, exploring the wildlife and culture of the Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve and the Cairngorms National Park.

Head of Education at RSPB Scotland and SpeyGrian trustee, Dr Joyce Gilbert said: “The concept of a journey is a great way to help people discover the intricacy and wonder of their local landscape, wildlife and culture and we hope that for these students at Kingussie High School, the experience will be really inspiring.

“The RSPB is committed to playing our part in ensuring as many young people as possible have contact with nature and we believe that partnership working is the key. In this case we have come together with the SpeyGrian Educational Trust, the University of Stirling, Kingussie High School and the local community to deliver ten different outdoor learning journeys on the 7th September. ‘Journeys in Nature’ has been designed to support the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence, and includes a follow up day on the 8th where pupils will be encouraged to share their experiences through a variety of media from writing to sculpture. These will ultimately be included in a touring exhibition ‘Creative Journeys’  which is planned for spring 2011.”

Writer Linda Cracknell is leading the pony journey – ‘Wild Words’ – up through Glen Banchor with local equestrian Ruaridh Ormiston. She added: “Moving slowly through a landscape is an essential human experience. It gives us the chance to observe the world closely through all the senses, frees up our creativity and imagination, and gives us a big blast of fresh air. Journeys provide a great context for exploration and learning. It’s very exciting for so many of us to be doing this at the same time.”

John Tracey, Head Teacher at Kingussie High School said: “Kingussie High School is very fortunate to be located in such a wonderful part of Scotland with such rich outdoor environments on our doorstep. Perhaps we take this for granted sometimes. This partnership with agencies and creative individuals is helping us – staff and pupils – go across our doorstep to more fully appreciate the learning environment of which we are apart.”

The other journeys in nature that the Kingussie High School pupils are taking part in are:

  • Paddle with a Poet  – canoeing through the RSPB’s Insh Marshes Reserve with poet and photographer Gerry Cambridge and Pete Moore from RSPB Scotland.
  • Biking and Biodiversity – a bike ride which will take pupils up Glen Feshie with artists Catriona Gilbert and Sarah Hughes.
  • Footsteps in the Park – seven different walking journeys with textile artist Jan Kilpatrick, writer Tom Bryan, willow artist Jane Wilkinson, sound artist Barney Strachan, sculptors Ross Robertson and Richard Bracken, place-based educator Alan Britton and Chris Salisbury who is a story teller and bushcraft instructor.

Support for the ‘Journeys in Nature’ project has come from a variety of sources, not least of course the local community with volunteers joining the pupils on the various journeys and thus becoming local mentors, helping to bridge the generation gap and contributing to a strong community identity and cohesion.

Financial backing has come from Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) via the European funded LEADER programme, RSPB Scotland, Awards for All, Scottish Centre for Intergenerational Practice, Book Trust Scotland and Kingussie High School.

Patricia Methven, Grants Manager at the CNPA said: “The Cairngorms Local Action Group is delighted to support Journeys in Nature, encouraging young people to explore the Park, its wildlife and its rich cultural heritage. We are particularly pleased with  the concept of members of the community getting involved in these outdoor learning experiences sharing their own local knowledge and stories.”

It is hoped that other schools in and around the Cairngorms National Park will also have the opportunity to take part in Journeys in Nature. For more information about SpeyGrian log onto their website