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National Parks BIG on Outdoor Learning

7th September 2012

A massive outdoor learning event has been taking place in the Cairngorms National Park this week for senior pupils and teachers from local authority areas covering Scotland’s two national parks.

The National Parks’ Residential Exchange kicked off on Tuesday 4 September for 64 senior pupils from 12 different schools representing six out of the seven local authorities: Highland, Aberdeenshire, Perth & Kinross, Angus, Stirling and West Dumbartonshire. The pupils have been taking part in a range of adventurous, environmental and challenging activities and have even had an overnight bivouac under the stars with an introduction to the ethos of ‘Leave No Trace’. They have also been working towards gaining their John Muir Discovery Award.

The pupils residential concludes today (Friday 7 September) and the weekend is dedicated to teaching the teachers with a weekend of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) activities aimed at helping teachers to gain more confidence in taking children out of the classroom for outdoor learning.

This is the second year that the National Park authorities, Education Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and the local authorities have organised the residential programme, supported with funding from The North Face Explore Fund. Last year,s event took place in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Alison Hammerton, Educations Scotland,s Development Officer for Outdoor Learning with the National Parks said: “This is an innovative partnership project and as last year’s event proved, extremely valuable for senior pupils in terms of their own personal development. For teachers it is an opportunity to build confidence in taking pupils outdoors for learning in Scotland’s national parks and gives them the chance to develop their own approaches and activities.”

CNPA Board Convener, Duncan Bryden said: “As far as outdoor classrooms go, they don’t come much bigger and better than the Cairngorms National Park or the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. It is imperative that we – with all our partners – encourage and make outdoor learning for pupils and teachers as easy as possible. All the research that has been done suggests that next to financial resources, a lack of confidence in taking children outdoors for learning was one of the biggest barriers so residential events like this are very important.”

Kingussie High School teacher Tracey Lomas who has been there with pupils all this week, is taking part in the teacher’s CPD event this weekend. She said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our pupils to experience challenging situations and develop their leadership skills whilst incorporating the beautiful National Park that we are so lucky to live in.”