An innovative partnership between landowners and an Aberdeenshire School that sees pupils visit estates to improve their knowledge and understanding of rural business has completed its successful first year.
Over the last school year, Aboyne Academy has been working with Ballogie, Glen Tanar and Dinnet Estates to operate the education programme for S3 pupils.
The year group has made three separate visits to Ballogie, Glen Tanar and Dinnet and worked with land owners and estate staff to understand various aspects of forestry. This included studying the seed-to-product pathways, visiting the local James Jones sawmill, working on harvesting, planting, conservation issues and biodiversity. Pupils worked on various activities in small groups on the different estates.
The drive for this collaborative venture has arisen in part from the encouragement and opportunities of the Curriculum of Excellence for greater engagement with the local business community and also from the recognition by land managers of the value of explaining the role of forestry in integrated land management and the employment opportunities which arise from it.
Malcolm MacIntyre, Depute Head Teacher at Aboyne Academy, said: “This project is exactly what learning and teaching should be about; working with local partners to engage young people in learning about key aspects of their local environment, in its broadest sense, in a fun, practical manner.”
Pupil evaluations have been positive, emphasising the fun they have had in learning about the role and place of forestry in the local landscape. Quotes include “I liked planting trees”, “I learned about different types of trees and soils”, “I liked learning about the benefits of trees”, “I learned that cutting down trees is a lot more technical and organised than I thought.”
Malcolm Nicol, Managing Partner at Ballogie Estate said “The countryside is a great classroom. It was really encouraging to see the very positive response to all three visits from both pupils and staff.”
The project has been supported by Scottish Land & Estates, the Cairngorm National Park Authority, the Forest Education Initiative and Aberdeenshire Council.
Work is underway to build on the success of this year by developing the project for a second year to investigate other initiatives for study and aspects of the rural economy.
A report on the first year of the project will be available later this summer.