The NL Challenge Group use the LRC for their weekly lunchtime meetings run by our Partnership Officer, Mrs Deborah King. I’ve been involved with various initiatives and lend a hand where it’s possible so it was nice to be invited along to the NL Challenge Group’s first expedition – a walk around Dalzell Estate.
If you’re not familiar with it, Dalzell Estate is a beautiful piece of woodland that runs from Motherwell all the way down to the Clyde, and is full of fascinating stuff, like ancient oaks, burial grounds and holy wells.
The pupils were there to practise their map reading but their curiosity was indefatigable. Anything out of the ordinary caught their eye, like the Covenanters Oak,
Wow, how old is it?
Is that the oldest thing alive?
Is it still alive?
How do you know?
How long do trees usually live for?
Why does it have crutches?
How does that help?
How much longer will it live for?
Are you allowed to climb it?
or the holes in the wall where the pointing needed redone,
What’s caused those holes?
Is it for defence?
Is it for allowing water to come through?
Why isn’t it fixed?
Is there something living in there?
or the beastie that they planted on my arm,
But the star attraction was the old, overgrown graveyard. They would happily have pored over the stones for hours, looking first for the oldest dates, but quickly getting involved in the details of the lives documented, and the surviving remains.
They noticed that one family had lost three children within a few days of each other and started to discuss what had caused the deaths.
They saw a group of four letters at the bottom of a stone and tried to figure out what they meant.
They commented on the phrasing, the lettering and the shapes of the individual stones before wondering what they would see if the stone was lifted.
They were extremely respectful and upset that the cemetery was so dilapidated, which led them onto who takes care of such places and who they ‘belonged’ to. And when we moved around to the pet cemetery, they compared how much animals meant to people and whether they deserved similar burial to humans.
So much philosophical enquiry and natural curiosity just from a two hour wander around an old estate, and that’s not including the discussions of how clean the water was, why there were grills in the well and why certain paths had been deemed dangerous.
Grabbing that inbuilt inquisitiveness and showing them the skills that help them find the answers is one of the reasons for school librarians’ existence ( even though fitting it within the framework of the timetable isn’t always that easy). Fortunately, Health and Well-being is a focus for next term and I think this would just be a perfect activity, stretching body and mind simultaneously. Taking along the means for collecting materials and ideas could spark off dozens of additional avenues of enquiry.
I’ve asked the pupils to write their own blogs for the school website. It’s going to be interesting to see what they took from their afternoons, and how it compared with mine.