An Island Teacher

This is the post excerpt.

I was inspired and encouraged by Sandra our Argyll and Bute Middle Leadership Network guru to enter the world of Twitter to engage and connect with other educators. This led me to the rich world of educational bloggers. In order to reflect upon, develop and share my learning experiences I have decided to have a go… All views are my own.


The Smells of Earth are so Strong…

Empty Classroom Day… A day to celebrate and inspire learning and play outside the classroom. But what did we achieve? Tim Peakes returned from space declaring that the smells of earth are so strong and how amazing it was to be back on Earth. After reflecting on a whole day of outdoor learning, and taking the time to focus on our local environment, I couldn’t agree more…

Empty Classroom Day… A day to celebrate and inspire learning and play outside the classroom. So What did we Achieve?

  1. Success in exploration

We headed outside to breathe in and smell the fresh, moist Mull air. It wasn’t long before we found a two headed newt whilst pond dipping in our conservation garden.

“We will be rich. We will be famous. We have discovered a new breed of newt. Our very own Lochdonhead monster!” But unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) not… What we had in fact discovered was two baby newts intertwined. Less intriguing perhaps? Not to these children: ‘We are sustaining life in our very own pond. Our pond is working!”I must remember to think before I jump to conclusions!’


2. Success in Partnership Working…

We have worked co-operatively  with parents and our community partners to provide outdoor learning areas to stimulate our senses and our scientific enquiry skills and we are lucky now be able to enjoy the benefits of these. The environment is ideal for fostering learning for sustainability.  The children were torn in two as they wanted to put the newt babies under the microscope in our, recently constructed, wooden science laboratory. However they recognised, rather reluctantly, that they ought to be returned to their natural, watery habitat as soon as possible.

3. Success with Scientific Enquiry…

We found an adult newt close to the edge of the pond, near the strong smelling wild garlic. Was it Naomi, or was it Norman? A quick search on an I-pad app suggested it was a palmate newt and more likely to be a Norman but we couldn’t be sure. Its tail seemed longer than its body and its toes appeared very long with dark webbed feet at the back – indications that it was indeed a male but more investigative research would be needed. It still didn’t stop the endless questions and discussions however with the suggestion that they could write stories about Norman and a two headed baby, for visitors to their conservation garden to read about, and perhaps they could become famous authors – high expectations but why not? Questions were created with plans made to seek out their answers over the weekend.

4. Success with Leading the Learning…

The pupils planned and organised their own day. Save the Children had declared June 17th as Den Building Day to raise awareness of the plight of children in countries who were living in temporary shelters. As part of their planning the pupils took this into consideration to improve their understanding of the difficulties and challenges of building structures with resources from their natural environment.  As well as to be simply having fun with their learning! The smell of moist moss, fresh flowers and the summer breeze through the hot hazel wood drifted up our noses…

5. Success with Creativity, Collaboration and Problem Solving…

The first challenge was to negotiate the school gatewayWP_20160617_002 carrying the varied lengths of sweet smelling willow they’d just pruned from our dome.

After they’d collected the lost pieces they continued to the forest measuring with a trundle wheel so thatWP_20160617_005 we could map a new track for our mile a day. Multi-tasking and number fluency and retention practice en route!

One team scored near perfect points for their den construction. What let them down? “Well, they decided that if two of them hadn’t argued and sulked after one had been poked in the eye with a stick by the other they would have improved their teamwork skills but they appeared to have learned from their mistake by saying that next time “they would take more care and be nice to each other.” An important life long skill!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin.


6. Success with Curriculum Coverage…

Predominantly: Literacy – talking and listening, reading. Maths – the language and practical application of measure and shape, problem solving. Expressive arts – Painting Technology – IT and construction. Social Studies – geography.  Science – Biology.

Personalisation and Choice in Reading
Painting our model of Skara Bay, Orkney from our book study ‘The Boy with the Bronze Axe’







7. We achieved more than we may know and more than I can put into words in this one blog. We stopped to pause and reflect on the beauty of the textures, tastes, sights, sounds, and smells of the world around us  We fostered a sense of co-operation, community and belonging. The children had specific learning outcomes that they were engaged in. They led, they explored, they enjoyed, they played and they enhanced their skills as learners. They made mistakes but learned through trial and error that they must fail in order to achieve…


Tim Peakes realised what he had missed down here after six months in space…That it is indeed wonderful to be back on Earth and he is so right the smells on earth are so strong. We just need to remember to keep noticing. There is nowhere I’d rather be…

Next steps…To continue to encourage students to face challenges and explore their passions in a stimulating, supportive environment where being the best you can be is paramount

  • To continue to enjoy the experiences that the natural world around us offers
  • To invite our local community and other schools to join us in our scientific enquiry in the Educational Conservation Garden
  • To research and develop nature trails for our forest and beach schools for our local community and other school children

Would you like to join us?


Fun is learning. Learning is Fun…

Look to Collaboration across Teaching and Learning Communities.

What a fun, enthusiastic and exciting week I’ve just had…

At an inter-authority leadership conference held in Argyll and Bute, colleagues from Bearsden Academy reminded me that it was more than okay to aspire to, do what I’d always set out to do, ensure that learning is fun. In fact, it is the word that takes precedence in their aims, vision and values. They and were recently rewarded with an excellent from HMIE for their improvement through self-evaluation.

wp_ss_20160529_0001In my first year of teaching the message I gave my young learners was that teaching and learning should be fun. Nine years on I am still having fun, further inspired as I watch those young learners, I first shared that belief with, embarking on their exciting chosen destinations.

Bearsden Academy leadership staff are committed to working together to be all they can be. It shone in their faces, in their passion for their learning and teaching so much so that they could have employed many new members of staff that day because don’t we all want our lives, including our working lives to be fun? Yes, we want it to be enriching; yes we want to make a difference to learners and we all want them and ourselves to be valued but what about the notion that by having fun with our teaching and learning it can be the driver that makes the difference to everyone. The first powerful quote that touched a chord was ‘leave the negative thinkers behind!’ Yes, please! How much more fun would life be then? If everyone was positive, solution based and forward thinking in their desires whilst remaining respectful of others positive ambitions and aims then the skies the limit.is

Fun is an intriguing word. Often the first thought is the belief that fun means being light hearted and something to be engaged in when the hard work is over. Is it a word that is considered deep and meaningful enough, when we are aiming for excellence for our learners within Scottish education?


Heading back to the island with lots to mull over.

I think so… Of course it is! if I remain true to my beliefs that education is predominantly about nurturing our young to become all they can be then of course ‘fun’ is an enormous gift, an invaluable skill to continue to model and share with all learners. Ensuring that learning is enjoyable, exciting and pleasurable will surely enhance engagement and thus attainment and achievement. In order to love doing something it has to be fun.

Following the inspirational collegiate working opportunity at Sandbank Primary, Dunoon, on that pleasure filled Saturday, I gathered further evidence that I needed to inform and reinforce my refreshed approach. After all obstacles are only what get in your way when you take your eyes off the goal…

Day one I started tweeting and collaborating with other positive thinkers. Guess what?

It was fun!


I then went into school modelling fun, which is easy when you love your work place already. However I still made sure that I had the biggest smile on my face and perfected the best spring in my step, before gathering and recording the evidence I needed from my pupils by asking ‘What makes learning fun?’ Soon Sticky post-its galore were filled… ‘Being able to interact, do things themselves, get messy, make choices about how they learn, be listened to and solve challenges’ were the driving desires.

I was extremely fortunate as our week of fun was soon to kick off with a pre-planned ‘Fizz Bang Boom’ chemistry workshop from Generation Science for Edinburgh science festival week. The challenge was to make a chemical reaction that was colourful and fizzing. The pupils interacted, they made a mess, they were listened to and they were entertained to learn and, my goodness, did they learn. The evidence was in their questions and answers and their enthusiasm. The evidence was in the Lego models they chose to make and annotate after showing their creative, evaluating and analytical skills. It was in the paintings, the comic strips, the posters. It was in the variety of mediums that they chose to share their learning through.wp_ss_20160523_0003

Exciting stuff… But the best part for me was when the pupils took ownership of that learning and took it home showing the ability to transfer their knowledge, understanding and skills and engage totally when the learning was enjoyable. A variety of evidence for the breadth and depth of their learning came into school the next day.

I myself tweeted further and had fun sharing the learning and watching as it reached across from our small island school and out into a wider community, locally, nationally and internationally. I gave the pupils a choice… to experiment at home or not and to my delight the majority chose to be the scientific enquirers I knew they could be! I had to try really hard not to jump up and down with the sheer joy the next day when pupils brought in a variety of learning evidence to share: An I-movie of lit match sticks and coin trick (pupil and parent collaboration); a home baked blue crispy cake came in complete with photographs of the creation. Stories of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar filled the classroom as well as messy kitchens. Best of all was the home made honeycomb bought in to share and the I-movie video that analysed and evaluated the cooking and scientific explanations of the chemical reaction. I was close to crying with delight. The joy of the learning experience created further fun and inspiration for us all.

Next steps:10-life-lessons-from-dr-suess-11-728

  • Blog to share the ethos of working and sharing collaboratively whilst having fun (of course!)
  • Inspire all the learners into having enjoyment and meaningful experiences with their learning beyond the classroom walls
  • Get more rest and sleep to handle all the new found enthusiasm

Hmm. Not sure where I will find the time. But guess what? I’m sure I will have fun trying…