Pupil winter skills weekend – 18-20th March 2016


This year we are back at the fine facilities of Badaguish in the Cairngorms National Park.

Why attend?
The Scottish winter mountains can be a challenging environment.  They are an excellent place to help you gain skills and confidence. We will help you experience some amazing conditions and hopefully learn some new winter skills – such as using an ice-axe and crampons, or for those that can already ski, maybe some touring off-piste on skis.

Who can attend … we will priorities S5 and S6 pupils, but will make it available to S4s if number permit. Max group size is 12.

Logistics  …  meeting , then leaving from Outdoor Learning Service in Musselburgh,  at 3pm on Friday 18th March, returning evening of Sunday 20th March.

Activities will be dependent on the conditions and the group, they will include …
Planning your winter day  – weather forecast, snow-pack, route-choice, what to take?
Winter navigation
Winter technical skills – use of winter boots, ice-axe, crampons
Snow craft – building emergency shelters, snow holes
Avalanche awareness and emergency response.
Winter hill-walking
Snowshoeing – dependent on conditions
Ski-touring – very dependent on participants prior experience and conditions. We can discuss when you arrive

What’s included …
Self-catering accommodation in 4 bed dorms
Instruction and coaching from ELC OLS staff
All technical and safety equipment, including shell clothing and winter boots.
BF, pack-lunch and dinner on the Sat, BF and pack-lunch on the Sun. Own purchased carry-out on the way up on the friday

What to bring …
See here for a kit-list
Linen for bedding is provided but you need so bring a towel!
Enthusiasm and a smile

How to book …
Contact a teacher in your school.  Cost is £95.

Not sure, or want to know more?  Email me … Andy Duff

ELCOLS – Week 2

A description of lessons shadowed by James – Edinburgh Uni student on placement with ELCOLS

My week started with a trip to Prestonpans Infant School for a ‘Bairns in the Woods’ session with a small group of students and their parents. We were able to construct simple shelters in the playground using only tarps, rope, teamwork and imagination within each group. Then, we all put up the giant tipi to escape the bad weather, and had a go at building little fires to roast our marshmallows on and stay warm. I think these activities highlight the potential social and academic benefits to families who may or may not be comfortable teaching or playing in an outdoor setting. Some of these parents (and grandparents) said they hadn’t done any of this since they were children. These simple activities engage children on a number of levels. It allows them to develop their communication, teamwork and physical skills while having fun with their families and teachers. I think they all had a fantastic time and I felt really privileged that I was allowed the opportunity to drop in to this school and family activity.
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The next day, myself, Antony Stone and Bob Baird all traveled to Elphinstone Primary School to have a ‘Go Mountain Bike’ afternoon with the P6/7 class. I had a really great time at this school, all the kids were fantastic and incredibly enthusiastic. At the start of the afternoon there were 4 or 5 students who didn’t know how to ride a bike, but by the end, they all could. Most were flying around the bike course we prepared for them and were honing their skills to become very capable mountain bikers. We’re going to need to think of something more challenging for these pros before the next class I think.

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I then returned to last weeks crime scene where a group of Higher Physics students from Ross High School and their teacher Chris Laud made me feel incredibly stupid because everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and what they were measuring except for me! I think I managed to get my head around this weeks task of measuring the different levels of friction in belay devices. This was the last day of experimentation before they analyse and write up their results. They all seemed to know exactly what they were doing and looked as if they all enjoyed doing it. I loved Chris’s “thinking outside the box” ingenuity to combat this potentially mundane topic, and engage the kids to a different method of learning. I can’t praise him and ELCOLS enough for their efforts in making this happen, and I’ll look forward to reading a lot more about it in the future. (Physics – mundane? Outrageous comment! – Editor)

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My final day was spent at Macmerry Primary School for a day of ‘Madventure’. All classes are currently doing projects about maps – so we decided to do all our outdoor learning activities using orienteering as a platform to develop their individual understanding of maps. It was a perfect morning and the students were raring to go and get stuck in. There were 6 activities in total, utilizing the whole of the school staff and grounds. I’m certain all the students had a fantastic time, they didn’t want to go back inside (even when it started snowing at the end). The teachers and support staff were fantastic at assisting and collaborating with teachers from ELCOLS and it was amazing to see the transfer of learning from the classroom to the outdoors happening among the kids. I hope they continue to develop their orienteering and map reading skills so they can perhaps take it a stage further and leave the school grounds next time. Maybe the next ‘Madventure’ day?

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Longniddry Primary pupil tops Scottish Junior orienteers

Maja ESOC 7-2-16

Maja Robertson, (Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club) of Primary 5 at Longniddry Primary School, took first place in the 10 years and under category of the Scottish Orienteering Sprint Championships 2016 at South Queensferry on Sunday the 7th February.

Maja ran two races on the day covering a total of 3.2k and having to visit 36 control points in order located throughout the town. She now leads the Women Young Junior 12 and under category of the Scottish Orienteering Urban League after two events, having taken third place in last years competition.

Adventurous Learning

Marcus Baillie of AALS in full flow at one of Saturday’s Adventurous Learning workshops.


The morning was organised and run by Education Scotland and also included workshops by Outward Bound,  The Ocean Youth Trust and The Scout Association.  The plenary session kicked off with a talk and a video made by Zeki Busan for the John Muir Trust.   A very articulate and passionate young man who has been inspired to travel the world’s wild places and to use his experiences to help educate others. The video can be seen here.  It would have been great have know more about what inspired him and gave him the independence and confidence to do this? His schooling, extra-curricular adventurous activities, family?

The session was run by Natalie White, Education Scotland’s Outdoor Development Officer and themed as ‘Adventurous Learning’. It included lots of content to inspire teachers to be more adventurous in their teaching; be that in the local woods, playground, or even in the gym hall  or the classroom. Very much in the spirit of the recent Adventurous Learning from Simon Beames and Mike Brown.

For me though I would like to have seen more discussion and energy being focused on how we can make make high quality adventurous activities accessible to all. Is it lack of funding, lack of clarity about broader educational priorities, unjustified fear of risk – or just too much else going on? Marcus Baillie reiterated perfectly what we all already know about the benefit of the these activities on young people.  In particular his comments regarding  ‘Character’  (see pic above).

For me though, if we are to see outdoor learning in the playground with a class of infants  as ‘adventurous’,  then we need to ensure we have a way for these pupils to progress. To make this truly impactful we need to address the barriers that currently stop them going on to have the opportunity (and confidence and desire?) to participate in their Gold DofE expedition, a ski tour in the Cairngorms, a sea-kayak trip round the Bass Rock or go on an outdoor residential – before they leave school.

There was discussion about the new Progression Framework for Outdoor Learning from Education Scotland and I look forward to see how this can help us address these barriers.

2 Days in the Life of a Climbing Wall

Hello, my name’s James Spalding and I’m a student on the Outdoor Education MSc programme at Edinburgh University, and I’m currently doing my placement here for a month at East Lothian Outdoor Learning Service.

The first  2 days have been focused on using the climbing wall at Forester’s Park provided by EnjoyLeisure, which they generously donate free of charge during school hours to the East Lothian Council Outdoor Learning Service (ELCOLS) and provides children with the opportunity to take their first steps into the climbing world without having to spend a penny.

Day 1 was spent in the company of Antony Stone, who is a freelance associate of ELCOLS and we were with a great group of 4 young people from ELWorks. None of these kids had ever participated in climbing before today and it’s safe to say that they exceeded mine and Antony’s expectations with their ability to pick up these new skills quickly.


(Antony showing off his fig-8 skills)

After some gentle persuasion they were coaxed onto the bouldering aspect of the wall to get to grips with what they would end up accomplishing easily by the end of their first session. Thus demonstrating their ability to quickly acquire the fundamental skills needed for climbing.



(Josh and Vinnie bouldering)

Day 2 – I was with ELOCLS principle teacher Martyn Pegg and Ross High School, and Physics teacher Chris Loud, who were doing a very different type of activity on the wall. With Chris’s ‘Higher’ class, they were trying to determine the level of friction created in climbing ropes when they’re twisted a certain number of times (I think, I was never great physics), and they came back with some pretty interesting results. They’ll be back next week to test the friction of different belay devices by using their own experimental methods. Can’t wait to see how they do it, hopefully I can keep up.


Before today, I never would have thought you could use a climbing wall this way, and it just shows how the imagination of a few teachers to take a primarily, textbook based topic and incorporate a climbing wall into the Higher Physics Curriculum can have such a positive effect on their students. The creativity of these guys to think outside the box (and the classroom) was inspiring and great to see.

Looking forward to what’s next on the calendar!