Parents, staff and pupils at Pairc School gathered for a major event yesterday (Wednesday October 9th) to mark the opening of their new facilities to encourage outdoor learning. 

These aim to relate what’s learned inside the school to things outside the building, encouraging understanding of how the learning can be actually used.

Headteacher Pauline Macleod said the development – involving facilities such as a bug hotel, wildlife camera, a story-telling chair, a seating area, stone circle, polytunnel, and outdoor equipment for the pupils themselves – has been high on the agenda on the school development plan for a couple of years,

“The evidence shows that when children are familiar with a context and understand the world around them, they become more engaged in learning and that can lead to higher attainment.  Outdoor learning is a fantastic way to do this.” 

Children in the school’s catchment area – with the school itself a 40-minute drive from Stornoway and many homes further away – are at a disadvantage about what they can access in terms of clubs and activities. 

The school applied successfully to a charity called Learning Through Landscapes (formerly Grounds For Learning) for support for their project and the charity also provided training. 

Then the project won support in cash and in kind from local firms and their employees, as well as parents and other members of the community. Breedon Northern and Mowi were among the commercial backers, along with Scottish Salmon.  Also supportive was Peter Maclennan who provided a donation towards buying outdoor clothing for the children at the school and performed the official opening by cutting the ceremonial ribbon.  

Mrs Macleod told those attending the opening event that the school’s surroundings provided a wonderful environment for the pupils to learn in, which made what the school offers unique and different.  “We have got this wonderful area which we can use to engage the children’s learning and enhance it.”

The event coincided with a fundraising coffee and cakes afternoon in support of Macmillan Cancer Support – and with a presentation, official thanks and the showing of a short commendatory film for Peter Maclennan who has provided regular services as a bus driver to the school for as number of years.