Learning in the open air

Claire Reid and Richard Haines looking out from the new mobile classroom
Claire Reid and Richard Haines looking out from the new mobile classroom
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children love playing outdoors.

And that is one of the main things that Claire Reid, the new education officer at the Ecology Centre, is aiming to cash in on when she takes to the road with the centre’s new mobile classroom.

Aptly named ‘Eco Explorers’ the new initiative, funded through a £53,000 grant from the People’s Postcode Lottery, will enable Claire to take environmental lessons out to schools and community groups, teaching them about wildlife habitats, climate change, recycling, biodiversity and many other aspects of ecology, without them having to travel to the Ecology Centre.

Claire explained that in today’s difficult economic climate many schools were finding it difficult to justify taking pupils on field trips because of the cost of hiring buses.

The new mobile classroom, which is set up in a tent measuring 3x6 metres, can be packed into the back of a van and taken out to playgrounds or land adjacent to schools, where up to four classes a day can learn about the environment, energy saving and generation, climate change, animal habitats and many other subjects.

Topics

The tent features habitat panels showing where different animals live, backed up by CDs of the sounds around that particular environment. There are also other panels on recycling, climate change and other topics which can be changed or added to as required to suit different topics and age groups.

The classroom also features models including a Scalextric track which is generator operated, teaching youngsters about kinetic energy; a working wind turbine which generates electricity to power a lightbulb; a working model of a water wheel; and solar panels.

“We have a whole menu of topics which the schools or groups can look at and decide what they would like the children to learn about, and they are all geared towards the Curriculum for Excellence,” said Claire.

Open air

After hands-on sessions in the tent, the children will then take part in games sessions out in the open air, involving them in physical activities.

All the games have been devised by Claire and her colleague Stewart Duffin, a physics graduate who volunteers at the Ecology Centre and who helped make the models.

Games sessions include lots of interaction, with running around, searching, acting and dressing up.

“They are all new ideas we have come up with and because they are such fun to take part in, children won’t realise they are even learning,” Claire said.

“We hope that once the classroom has been out to a few schools, it will spread by word of mouth how good they are and others will want to become involved.”

>> To find out more about Eco Explorers, contact Claire at the Ecology Centre on (01592) 891567.​