A gorge-ous day out

Visibility was about 20m when we approached Soutra Gorge with P5 from Windygoul Primary. And it was cold – ice floating in the river cold – when we reached the river.

I was working hard to keep a brave face in front of the pupils – I knew hold cold this was going to be and was preparing for a mutiny!

Martyn briefs the team – if it looks cold that’s because it was.


Once kitted up though, and actually splashing about in the water, the adventure and the atmospheric location took over from the dread of the cold water.





The class have been working on recording and presenting their experiences of a journey, and this outing gave ample scope for sharing thoughts, fears and feelings before during and after the experience. Unlike canoeing for example, where they would have some concept of

what would be involved prior to the event, none had any experience of gorgewalking and so were coming to this with some degree of uncertainty and trepidation which the weather and location could only enhance – plenty of material for discussion and for their presentations. Video interviews were conducted on the bus, during the activity and afterwards on the return journey.

And they’re in.

The bottom of the gorge is an area which very few people visit – probably only ELC OLS groups a few times a year – and the pupils were able to see unspoilt mosses and pristine icicles – it will be interesting to see their reactions and how/if this comes across in presentations.



After initial instruction and guiding, and once they’d discovered that their gear was keeping them warm(ish), the pupils were given the task of getting themselves back up the gorge and it was great to see them pulling and working together to get each other safely over the icy rocks.

Looking over the edge


What surprised us all was that the pupils were actively asking to get in the water, splashing about and even volunteered to put their heads under an icy waterfall!




Working together to get back out!


So hopefully the pupils left with increased confidence in their own, and each other’s abilities as well as plenty of material for their presentation projects – it will be interesting to get their take on the day!


Haddington Infants – P3 Orienteering

“P3 kids can’t do orienteering – they can’t read maps, they can’t navigate, they’ll get lost and we’ll spend the day chasing them like we’re trying to herd cats.”

These were my thoughts when Bill told me we’re off to take Haddington Infants P3 for orienteering sessions in Neilson Park. I suspected we were about to have a lot of faffing….

For the first 5 minutes of each session, a casual observer would probably think the same -when Bill asks which direction is north, 22 children point in 22 different directions!

After a quick walk round the park, maps in hand, I’m forced to revise my preconceived ideas however. Within minutes, they can orientate maps to north, recognise map symbols and relate direction on the map to direction on the ground – they grasp the principles quickly and are keen to get going on their own.

Ten minutes in and every single map is oriented North – good work!

Once they’ve practiced with one or two points, they are soon tackling complete courses, logging scores and times and navigating from point to point with confidence.

The children are obviously excited and enjoying themselves – they run constantly for over an hour and despite the frost on the ground, coats, hats and gloves are abandoned and shirt sleeves are the order of the day – not bad for the middle of February!




Coats for goalposts.


What the children seem to enjoy most is the sense of freedom and responsibilty – they don’t have to follow their teachers, their every move isn’t dictated to them and they are free to plan their own route to visit the points on the map. There is no issue about going to the wrong points in the wrong order – they are free to make their own mistakes, learn from them and come up with a better plan for the next course.

Complete one route, get a new map, go again – a conveyor belt of activity!


All this is great fun – comments like “Can we do this again tomorrow?”, “This is great fun!” and even “I love orienteering!” are common. But is that all it is – just good fun?

Pupils worked in pairs in charge of their own maps, electronic “dibbers” and routes.

We can take a quick look at the CfE and see if we can make any links from it to what we did in the park –

Successful Learners (enthusiasm for learning; new thinking and ideas; communication; using technology; independent thinking individually and as a group) – TICK.

Confident Individuals (relate to others; active lifestyle; assess risk; make informed decisions) – TICK.

Responsible Citizens (respect for others; environmental considerations) – TICK.

Effective Contributors (enterprising; self-reliance; communication in different settings; working in partnership; taking initiative; critical thinking in new contexts; solve problems) – TICK.

When a route is completed, Bill gives feedback on routes, times etc. Every team gets an instant printout. With this feedback, pupils can plan their next route.

The links to experiences and outcomes are too numerous to list here – the links to Health and Wellbeing may be obvious (co-operation and competition being perhaps the most apparent), but it doesn’t end there.

Mathematics was built in – the classes are just about to start work on “time” and the printouts with their timings showing minute and seconds gives a good introduction to the concepts. Technology was used for the electronic timing system. It is relatively simple to tailor the event to target any number of outcomes for any age/stage – name the control points in French; bring Social Science/environmental issues into the mix; add maths equations to the control points; identify the trees in the area – the connections that can be made are only limited by the imagination.

Such a session is a good example of obliquity – a different and innovative way of approaching education and achieving learning outcomes by an indirect route. It was great fun, but it was also much more than that.

Yes, you can fit an entire primary school class in the tipi tent……

Most importantly though, all pupils had a good time and P4 outings were already being discussed!

So, it appears I was wrong. P3 kids can read maps and they can navigate.

And no one got lost!

…although it is a tight squeeze!

Loretto RC Primary P7 Hillwalking trip

The sun shone and the wind blew for the Loretto RC P7 Primary hillwalking trip in the Lammermuir Hills. After gearing up at the East Lothian Outdoor Learning Service…

…we headed for the hills. All the pupils have been working on their mapwork in class with Mr Paul over the last few weeks so this was a chance to use those skills on the hill.


It was windy on the way up but the sun stayed out and we were treated to some great views across the hills.

Approaching the summit, everyone took a bearing and we struck off across country to the summit.

Great views across the hills

It’s not a spaceship! Lunch was had at the summit in the group shelter – a tight squeeze!

Although the summit was cold and windy, everyone made it to the top of Lammer Law. Clear views across the Forth to Fife!

It is one thing learning a skill such as map reading in the classroom but there is no substitute for using the skills for real and seeing how a map relates to the hills you’re standing on.

A superb day out and one the class will remember for a long time!

Click HERE for a map of the route.

Musselburgh Grammar S3 Geography trip

Musselburgh Grammar S3 Geography had a great day out exploring rivers and coastlines in East Lothian.

The day started out with a waterfall session on Billsdean Creek followed by a walk downstream to explore the shore – fossilised trees were spotted as were textbook natural arches.

Mr Duff pointing out some fossilised trees on the shore
Natural arch – an opportunity for some field sketches

Rather than brave the crossing of the A1, a shortcut under the road was taken!

Moving on to Hedderwick Burn, lunch was taken in the tipi tent and some after lunch slacklining before moving on to study the meanders at in the lower course of the river.

A great chance to see at first hand some of the features the class have been studying in class – and the sun shone!