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Glashieburn's LEAF journey

A blog post by Lindsay Shepherd

Glashieburn Primary School's Lindsay Shepherd reflects on their journey as part of our LEAF pilot, from visiting lochs to learning about habitats in the forest.

Over the last few years at Glashieburn we have been working on enhancing our outdoor learning provision across the school, in the playground and also within our courtyards for each age and stage. Before 2020, our nursery children led the way by taking part in the Wee Green Space initiative with Juliet Robertson. They visited the local forest, explored a range of activities and the Early Years team took part in training for literacy and numeracy.

Post-Covid times it has been through the interest of last session's P2 team and new members of staff that the forest has been visited again in 2022. When we learned about Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Learning about Forests (LEAF) pilot project, we jumped at the chance to further explore our previous wee green space with a focus to learn through our forest and for the children to take the lead in their own learning.

As my passion is outdoor learning, I put myself forward as the LEAF Co-Ordinator for Glashieburn. This meant that I attended four online meetings over the year with Nicola Davidson (Keep Scotland Beautiful's Education and Learning Officer) and the other pilot schools across Scotland. After our first online meeting and run through of all the aspects of the Forest Cycle, I thought even as a job share this could be manageable, particularly with our P1 classes as it gave them the chance to be little leaders in an achievable way.

The first task was to complete an Awareness Survey with our P1 classes, as the Forest Committee. This survey was very straightforward and the children took great delight in showing us their answers to statements such as, ‘I like to play outside’ or ‘I don’t like to play outside’, ‘I like to find bugs and look at them’ or ‘I don’t like to find bugs and look at them', and ‘I like to splash in puddles’ or ‘I don’t like to splash in puddles’. The answers to these questions gave us the ideal platform to establish our Action Plan and the theme of our learning for our P1 Forest Committee. 

As the children didn’t seem to like bugs or be interested in being outdoors, the theme for our LEAF journey became Forest and Biodiversity. The aim has been to learn about the biodiversity in the wee green space and how we can protect it. We chose three actions to focus on:

  • Learn about seasonality in the forest, looking at the trees, the bugs/insects/birds and the habitats that this space provides
  • Make connections with the local residents' association to Inform and Involve the community in our learning
  • Explore our curiosity further with a trip to the loch to see the ducklings and open our eyes to lifecycles and new learning environments

Our investigations and explorations were planned using the children’s ideas and interests in the forest, as well as the seasonal Wanderlust Nature Study created by Hygge in the Early Years and Glashieburn’s ongoing Hygge accreditation as a school.

Throughout the pilot project online meetings were held to start us off on our LEAF journey, at the halfway point to see how we were all getting on and to then check on our progress. These meetings all came at the perfect time to remind us to send in our Action Plans, to evaluate our journeys so far and, of course, how to apply for and finalise our LEAF award application.

There was also a live event to showcase all the pilot schools and our Forest Committee were thrilled to get a mention from Nicola during the event when our video was shown. It was so inspiring to see how each school developed their own LEAF projects depending on the age and stage that had embraced the LEAF journey and the creative ways how forests were used to enhance the learning across Scotland.

The final stage of our LEAF Award was the children’s evaluation of their learning and realising how their attitudes had changed across the year. We did this by repeating our initial survey and completing our Forest Code. This was brought together, from the children’s ideas of “a few rules for forest learning” and also recognising the skills that you need for the forest, such as “using your imagination” and “using our big muscles to run up and down the hills".

Going forward into the next school year I look forward to seeing how we can develop the Forest Committee further, this time including the whole school in deepening our love of outdoor learning within the school grounds as well as the forest and the local community.

If you'd like to learn more about LEAF, visit LEAF | Keep Scotland Beautiful for more information.

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