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Timber! Scone schoolchildren demonstrate woodland management skills at launch of forestry award

Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School pupils were the first in Scotland to gain a Royal Forestry Society accredited award. Pictures and video by Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media.
Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School pupils were the first in Scotland to gain a Royal Forestry Society accredited award. Pictures and video by Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media.

They’ve learned about felling trees, planted saplings and managed their own woodland.

Now pupils at a Perthshire primary school have helped launch the country’s first junior forestry award so other children can do the same.

Youngsters at Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School, in Scone, were the first to gain the Scottish Junior Forester Award for children aged 4 to 14.

Watch: Pupils show their forestry skills

The school trialled the programme last year and it was so successful that it’s being rolled out to schools across Scotland by Scottish Forestry

Pupils learned how to look after plants, maintain wooded areas and even chop down trees.

Children have learned how to look after woodland.

Outdoor learning teacher Alison Wilson, who ran the course, said: “They learned how to risk assess the woods, find and identify trees, they planted trees, cared for the woodland area, pruned the brambles when they needed done, locked brackets – generally how to look after woodland areas.”

Children are also given a taste of forestry as a career, and the RDM pupils interviewed Chief Forester of Scotland Dr Helen McKay about her work in the field.

At the end of it they received a certificate accredited by the Royal Forestry Society.

Pupils earned Scottish Junior Forester certificates and badges.

Alison added: “When children get outdoors with nature they learn skills that stand them in good stead for adult life; team building skills, survival skills, problem solving.

“They can be creative and they get to explore with magnifying glasses, binoculars – it’s really exciting, they never get to play like that in class.

“The children that excel at outdoor learning might not be the same ones who do so in class but they all go back to the classroom feeling refreshed.”

She hopes other children will enjoy the course as much as her group did.

She said: “The pupils and I have really enjoyed working on the award together and I’m sure other schools will benefit greatly from participating in it as well.”

Chief Forester of Scotland Dr Helen McKay (holding watering can) with the Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School foresters.

Dr McKay joined the children to launch the award for other schools, youth groups and community organisations.

She said: “It’s so important that we increase the knowledge of trees and woodlands in the younger generation.

“We are facing a global climate emergency and trees can be part of the solution. If we get this message across to people at an early age, and build up their knowledge and understanding, we can build the foresters for the future.”

Identifying tree species is among the lessons.

Bringing forestry into the curriculum, she said, will show young people it is worthwhile career with great prospects.

“We are keen to attract more young people into the sector to play their part in creating and managing Scotland’s forests, woods and trees.”

The Scottish Junior Forester Award can be done alongside the environmental John Muir Award.

‘Stop putting plastic in the oceans’: Scone children’s messages to COP26 world leaders

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