Outdoor Learning Afternoons at Alltnacriche

When the government announced that Level 4 restrictions would continue in January, we thought of those children and young people struggling with another lockdown and the return to online learning. We reached out to our local primary schools, and with the support of our local Rotary Club, we offered a four-week programme, to those who were finding restrictions particularly challenging, of one afternoon session per week.

With restrictions allowing us only to be outside, we’ve had to get creative. The Alltnacriche courtyard has had a makeover especially for the occasion, with tarp, picnic benches, and big fire pit creating a base for the operation. At the heart of this operation, the focus has been on looking at literacy, numeracy and RME in an outdoor setting; that is, taking elements of our normal residential and mashing it up with things traditionally found in the classroom.

Through the 2.5hr session there has been an overarching theme to our activities and learning. Week one had the children listening to the creation story, getting to create things themselves using what was around them - from shelters to snowy Baby Yodas! - and taking a very unofficial tree survey of the birch trees in our woods - estimates and rough calculations of tree age and height were logged in their own data tables.

Each week we are working on our poem writing skills, starting by writing one altogether and building up to each child writing their own. We’ve looked at different types of poems, from a simile poem to diamanté poems, haikus and acrostic poems. The children have grown in their confidence to write about what is around them in different ways.

Last week introduced the children to the key Christian belief that we are all valued - we may all be different and our skill sets are varied, but we are created in God’s image, and that is where our value lies. The children got their calculators out once again and used them to calculate the speed of an object while participating in the Egg Drop Challenge - most eggs were not harmed during this activity…

This week the children’s focus has been on birds. We used the words of Jesus from Matthew 6 to learn that Christians believe we are so valued and loved by God, so we shouldn’t worry how our needs will be met. We then created biodegradable bird feeders, some very small to stay around Alltnacriche and some larger ones to take home. We then learned about the swift, what problems the swift population are facing, and built swift bird boxes that will be put up around site.

Our final week of the block will have the children donning their engineering caps as they look to build their own mini zip lines, focussing on creating the perfect landing for the lucky bag of spuds that gets to zip down! Then we’ll compare the spud landing to Alltnacriche’s very own landing zones on our zip lines, and even take a turn or two at landing - all for the sake of science, you understand! We’ll finish off our RME by hearing about how Christians believe that God wants to have a relationship with us, and that we can speak to him in prayer. We can talk to God about anything, at any place or any time. In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians to pray without ceasing!

So please pray for us as we deliver this programme. Pray for the children who have spent their afternoons with us, that they would have gained so much from their time outside, and that they would experience God’s love. Pray, too, for our organisation, as we look to continue to support the children and young people of Scotland through this time.


Anna Bowker - Activities Instructor, Alltnacriche