Bard's legacy burns bright
WHEN LEAVING his Mauchline home for good, Robert Burns wrote a farewell poem to friends and convivial companions, which ended with a request for them to drink a toast each year to "the Bard that's far awa". The response is still growing more than two centuries after his death.
Even Scottish education is beginning to appreciate Burns, and is starting to celebrate our greatest poet for his ability to express common thoughts and feelings in uncommonly beautiful language.
New classroom resources have just been launched by Learning and Teaching Scotland and distributed to every primary school in the country. They can also be downloaded from the web.
Their origins lie in a programme run by Careers Scotland and known as EEBL - excellence in education through business links. This is aimed at widening the perspectives of classroom teachers - and developing them profession-ally - by placing them, for a time, in a totally different workplace.
Two West Lothian primary teachers, Samantha Heneghan and Kirsty McLaren, were placed at the Robert Burns National Heritage Park in Alloway, Ayrshire, says Eric Burton, enterprise in education development officer at Learning and Teaching Scotland.
"They came back with all sorts of good ideas for classroom resources," he says.
While working in Alloway, the teachers learned, through LTS, of the existence of a pack produced by the Robert Burns World Federation.
"It's great stuff," says Mr Burton. "So the teachers and I then decided to work with the federation to tie its resources into the four capacities of A Curriculum for Excellence. We got funding from Determined to Succeed to enable us to do that."
While the connection with enterprise might not be obvious, a little imagination provides a wealth of possibilities, says Mr Burton.
"The resources are aimed at pupils from the nursery up to early secondary.
So you can look at the world of work, and the skills and trades that were around in Burns's time, and compare them with today.
"He was an exciseman, so we still have customs and excise. You can look at distillers, poets, writers, publishers, farmers, stonemasons.
"There are connections with culture, literacy and numeracy - kids can work out the number of miles Burns covered on his travels.
"Teachers can download a template of Burns's cottage in Alloway, which the kids can cut out, colour in and put together. So each child can have their own 'auld clay biggin'."
A matrix has been produced so that teachers can match sections of the resource with where they can be used in the curriculum, as well as with the capacities of A Curriculum for Excellence.
"The younger pupils, for instance, can download a template to make a table mat with the Selkirk Grace on it ('Some hae meat and canna eat'). This can then be laminated and used to put on a wee Burns Supper in the classroom.
"There are instructions for Burns bookmarks, and for using 'A man's a man for a' that' in citizenship. There is a wealth of information and imaginative ideas for teachers."
This is, however, just the beginning, says Mr Burton. There are already links with teachers in the United States and Canada: "We've just emailed it to Estonia, where they want to learn about Scottish culture - and are beginning to pick up on enterprise in education."
Next year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Mr Burton says that for this special occasion the new educational resources will be enhanced by a DVD of music, film and information about Burns's life and poetry.
"But we think it is a great resource already," he adds.
* The new Robert Burns package for primary and nursery schools can be found at www.ltscotland.org.ukenterpriseineducation
Burns Supper with table placemats
Great Scots display
Work skills from Burns's time still used today
Letters to anyone - butcher, toastmaster, event organiser, musicians, actors - involved in the Burns Supper, asking them to explain their role
Printing - how are books made?
Publishing - how do you get a book, story or poem published?