Scotland educational visits - Open door thinking

26th September 2008 at 01:00
Scotland's most remote areas have one thing in common with its cities - walking is a learning experience, says Deedee Cuddihy

When deciding what trips to go on, schools often mention the cost of bus transport. For Liza Bracken, it's plane fares.

She's headteacher at Fair Isle Primary on one of Scotland's most remote inhabited islands. Her eight pupils fly several times a year to the Shetland capital of Lerwick (a 25-minute journey) for swimming lessons, French tuition and theatre performances.

Since moving to the island last April, Liza has initiated a local once-a- week outdoor education slot for her pupils. Already this term they've walked to a croft to learn about traditional Shetland hay stacks and they will meet another crofter who makes spinning wheels.

Where school trips are concerned, Jane Bruce says a major element is filling in the risk assessment forms. Jane is head of Papdale Primary in Kirkwall. She runs the biggest primary school in Orkney, with several hundred pupils, and loves getting the pupils out and about, and lifts much of the organisational stress from colleagues' shoulders by getting the school's business manager to deal with the paperwork.

Pupils learn about business, tourism and job opportunities on free trips to the island's creamery, jewellery workshops and even the whisky distillery. "We also have a beach day, sessions with Royal Society for the Protection of Birds wardens, free entry to Orkney's fabulous prehistoric sites and outings to Stromness Museum," says Jane.

On the mainland, John Lawson, head of Blackfriars Primary in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, believes a trip out that involves an element of walking is more beneficial to the 250 pupils at his school. He says: "We make lots of visits, from Primary 1 up, to local places. So we walk to the leisure centre for swimming, as well as to nearby parks and the Citizens Theatre.

"Walking incorporates not just exercise, but lessons about road safety, litter and architecture. We also take advantage of Glasgow's free museums and the Primary 7s go to the Scottish Parliament."


The Scottish Crannog Centre, Perth and Kinross (

Discover how and why Scotland's Iron Age crannog people built their homes on water in 600BC. Schools visit the reconstructed thatched round house on stilts on Loch Tay, where a settlement of 18 crannogs is being explored by underwater archaeologists, then try out a range of Iron Age activities.

Stromness Museum, Orkney (

One of Scotland's oldest museums, with a shingle beach running from the front door to the sea. Learn about John Ray, the Arctic explorer, find out how Orcadians lived in Victorian times and explore a sailor's house.

Nethybridge Outdoor Centre, Highland (

This outdoor centre near Aviemore, established more than 20 years ago, offers residential ski weeks to primary schools, ferrying groups by minibus to the nearby Lecht. If snow is a no-show, the centre has a dry ski slope, as well as other on-site sports facilities.

Macduff Marine Aquarium, Aberdeenshire (

The aquarium, situated on the Moray Firth coastline, provides a fun, hands-on educational experience. Observe wolf fish, lumpsuckers and other local sea creatures, watch divers feed the inhabitants of the kelp tank and get a feel for seashore life at the touch pools.

Almond Valley Heritage Centre, West Lothian (

Activity-based living museum, centred on a 200-year-old farm and mill beside the river Almond, with friendly livestock, trailer rides and a mini railway.


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