From understanding comes strength



Wednesday 26th September

We investigated beach landscapes today to compare with the other environments we have worked in. Our beach scavenger hunt was great fun and we found a huge variety of natural items from driftwood to sea glass and unusual pebbles.

We made stone stacks on the beach which required skills in finding flat pebbles, ordering them by size and shape and using great precision.

Our final task was to complete a beach tidy. Even in the short part of the beach we worked on we found litter of many varieties.

Wednesday 19th September

We began the work we will be doing with Dalvenie Care Home by learning how to plant the bulbs, seeds and herbs we bought at the garden centre. These were taken over to the garden ready to be planted or placed in the greenhouse.

We made posters to show what we are planning to do; our wild meadow and wildlife garden and then spent time with some of the residents. We were able to serve them tea and cakes and have a chat. They were very interested to hear about our plans for their garden and look at our posters. It was so beneficial for both groups to have some time to interact.

Wednesday 3rd October

As part of our John Muir Award and our RSPB Wild Challenge we completed some ‘help nature’ and some ‘experience nature’ activities today. We learned how to light, watch over and safely extinguish a small fire then used these skills to boil Kelly Kettles for our hot drink.

To explore what kind of animals live in the woods we set up a night vision camera which we hope will capture anything that is enticed by our food! We also laid a tracking box which will capture the footprints of mice, voles or shrews which come for a nibble!

To help wildlife we put up a squirrel feeding box and learned about them.

Our afternoon was spent planting up our wildlife garden at Dalvenie Care Home. We dug in two ponds, planted our insect attracting plants and made a log pile home for minibeasts.


We were happy to see lots of wood mice footprints in our tracking box which we left in the woods last week. We hope our wildlife camera has captured some of their movements.

We learned how to measure a 1 metre squared area, then counted the variety of natural items within that square. We used tally marks to record what we found then turned our information into a bar graph.

To investigate whether the stream within Clune Wood is clean or polluted we did some kick sampling and looked at what was living in the stream. We found different varieties of larvae and fresh water limpets so we know the stream is clean.

Our knife skills were used to whittle a sharp stick for marshmallow toasting and we completed the day by doing a bit of wild writing to reflect on some of our activities so far.

Wednesday Group

Wednesday 31st October

Today we were lucky enough to work with a lady called Willow Lohr. Willow is a bush craft and survival expert and she travels the world delivering outdoor session to both children and adults.

Willow taught us how to make a spear with a sharp arrow head. It required careful knife work and using tree sap mixed with charcoal to bind the arrow head onto the whittled stick. We were all very excited to see and handle all the animal pelts and skulls that Willow has collected over the years. We learned about carnivores and herbivores and looked at their teeth to understand the different ways they ate. We also learned about prey and hunters and the different ways species have adapted to protect themselves.

We discussed fire and how essential it is to keep warm and cook food if lost in the wild. We looked at different tinder’s and at how best to start a fire if we only had one match!

Wednesday 7th November

We were out and about today visiting Carnie Wood in Kingswells and the Duthie Park in Aberdeen. As part of our RSPB Wild Challenge we did a bird watch challenge at Carnie Wood. This required us to sit still in one place and record the number of birds that visited the area in that time. Quite a large variety of birds were recorded. We were lucky enough to also see some red squirrels playing in the woods.

At the Duthie Park we completed an orienteering task which was especially challenging due to the wind and rain! Everyone showed great determination despite this. We went on a plant safari to again, help us towards the next level of our RSPB Wild Challenge. Nine different plants and shrubs had to be found within the grounds and we found most of them and many more that weren’t on our sheet.

The Winter Gardens gave us some solace from the weather and we had to find/choose leaves, plants and trees which were of interest to us. Sometimes we looked for the biggest leaf or the smoothest/roughest. We found flowers in a huge variety of colours and some that even looked like deer antlers.

Wednesday 14th November

We continued our work for Dalvenie Care home today by making bird feeders to hand in their garden. We want to attract birds, so the residents can watch them coming to the garden from the comfort of their chair. We used recycled materials to make a simple wooden spoon and bottle bird food hanger. To add interest, we used the pyrography pens to create nature images on the wooden spoons. We think they look pretty good!

Our next task was to make natural paint. We used raspberries, blackberries, turmeric, mustard powder and spinach which we ground down with a tiny amount of water. We use the paint to create natural scenes onto simple cotton pieces which was then glued round recycled jars. Hey presto, tea light holders!

Finally, we had a garden tidy in the Dalvenie garden. There were lots of leaves needing raked and a pile of old pots needing tidied away. We even found some old spring bulbs which we have planted. Our wildlife garden is coming on well and our ponds have naturally filled up due to the rain. Our day completed with a cup of tea and cake with some of the residents.

Wednesday 21st November

Today we went to Clune Wood and despite the wet weather we had a productive day. We developed our knife skills by using them to whittle and carve a stick we will use next week. We also experimented with different ways of starting a small fire using only one stick and one match. This was particularly challenging today because of the wind!

As part of our RSPB Wild Challenge we completed a minibeast safari activity. Logs and stones were turned over and bark lifted to look for evidence of insects. We learned about different insect habitats. To continue our learning about native Scottish wildlife we played ‘Who Am I’ game.

Our day finished with making torches and lighting them. We even had a competition to see which one would burn for the longest!   

Wednesday 28th November

We investigated herbs today as part of learning about the plants we are growing for Dalvenie Care Home. We worked in small groups and started in Tesco where we had a shopping list for our cooking later in the day. Each team was tasked with buying items at the cheapest price. The highest basket was £9.56 and the cheapest was £2.93, a huge saving. Back at school we used all our senses to identify 10 different herbs and learned about how they are used. Each group made tomato soup with one group using basil, one rosemary and the last group used oregano. Our taste test was interesting because everyone was able to taste the difference between the herbs used. We researched natural Christmas decorations at Raemoir Garden Centre and looked at how they have been made. We will choose one we like to make in the forest before Christmas.

Wednesday 5th December

We spent a frosty day at Burn O’Vat and had fun exploring the vat and the walking paths around the nature reserve. We raced our whittled sticks down the small burn and had fun climbing into the vat and collecting icicles along the way. As part of our RSPB Wild Challenge we collected small natural items and then looked closely for them. We chose one thing to draw in detail. The visitors centre had a huge variety of skulls, skins and information about native species found in the area. We learned a lot about the landscape around the Cairngorms. We used clay to make a natural picture/animal or expression of any natural things we had seen and learned about.

12th December 2018

It was our final day in the forest and we brought together all our skills to make some natural Christmas decorations. We used a variety of tools, knives and team work to create a Santa family, a Christmas garland. Our team challenge was to make a hanging stick tree which we had to do by following written instructions. We had to measure, cut and drill all the pieces to complete our decoration.

Wednesday 16th January 2019

Our new group visited Clune Wood in Durris today and explored their environment using their senses. We thought about and used describing words to help others guess the identity of natural objects. We learned some simple knife skills and whittled small gnomes and marshmallow sticks. After walking to the standing stones in Clune Wood and following some of the trails we started thinking about the wildlife that might live in woodland. Using an old box, flour and some mouse friendly food we set up a tracking box to capture footprints of any visitors.

Wednesday 23rd January

It was a cold January day in the woods and we had to keep active to keep warm. We focussed on safe use of tools and strong structures. We looked at two different ways to create shelters and each group made one of these. After looking a smaller models of an A frame and a pyramid design the skills were transferred to bigger scale shelters. Problem solving skills and team working was essential to complete this task. Pupils cut a wood slice and decorated it, before hanging it inside the shelter. They were able to describe how to safely use Bow saws and Laplanders.

Wednesday 30th January

Despite the cold weather and some snow on the ground, we did some tidy up work in the school wildlife garden. A simple tidy up and cutting down of the old wild meadow made the area look much cleaner and ready for spring. We worked at Dalvenie Care Home and did some further preparations for their wild garden area. In our visit to the garden centre we selected edible food seeds we will grow in the care home greenhouse. If they grow well we hope to use the produce to cook something for the residents in summertime. Our final part of the day was planning and pulling together ideas for the new garden area outside of the school learning centre. We want to create a teenage garden that pupils would like to sit and work in.

Wednesday 20th February

We made natural paints using a variety of food and spices mixed with water. Using these colours we designed and painted cloth to create a tea light jar. Our fire skills were tested as we made individual five minute fires. It was made more difficult due to the wind! To highlight the differences between prey and predators we played some ‘sneaking’ games which required us to use our senses to be alerted to danger. Some of us got a bit wet but it was great fun. Team skills were also developed with our stick tower challenge and leaky pipe game.

Wednesday 27th February

Today we visited Duthie Park in Aberdeen and completed the orienteering course, doing this as a ‘star’ event and competing against other pairs in the group. Pupils became skilled at reading the maps and orienting them correctly to find hidden points. We visited the winter gardens and talked about colour, size, shape and texture of the plants as well as the different growing conditions. Pupils chose one plant/flower and one cactus that interested them and drew a detailed drawing of it.

We visited the Willow plantation in Banchory which is owned by Leys Estate and were shown around by the estate ranger. They are kindly donating willow for our school wild garden, which we will plant next week.

Wednesday 6th March

We completed a photo trail along the river finishing at the Milton in Crathes. Despite the very wet and cold weather the pupils stayed upbeat and motivated. We continued our walk up to and around Crathes Castle Estate before walking back to school. Over 20,000 steps were covered today! We learned about distinguishing natural features in our local environment and discovered huge trees.

Wednesday 9th September

It was our first visit to Dalvenie Care Home and we were busy clearing out their old, unloved greenhouse. We identified two areas in their garden space which we will plant up into a wild garden and a wild meadow.

At the garden centre we choose plants which we will need to fill these spaces. These included spring bulbs, herbs and insect attracting plants.

Wednesday 13th March

Today we were busy planting a lot of willow trees that were kindly donated to us by Leys Estate. It formed part one of our work in the new outdoor classroom at Banchory Academy. To provide us with some shelter from the wind and with privacy we had to learn how to plant a fedge. A fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge and provides a natural boundary which will eventually create a softer edge than the black fence presently there. Each individual tree had to be cut at the end, trimmed and then sorted into size before making holes in the ground for each one. We planted them at 45 degree angles, crossing them in front of each other and tying them up.

Wednesday 20th March

We visited Burn O’Vat today to explore the nature reserve and learn about how the vat was formed. We enjoyed climbing into the waterfall and wading through the streams. We collected miniature natural items along our walk, making sure every item was different. There were loads of frogs hopping about on our walk to the loch. So many that we had to be careful not to stand on them! We had a look through the visitors centre and used clay to make a scene or natural object, using real leaves and grasses to add more effect.

17th and 24th April

5th May 2019