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?