How can Students develop a Growth Mindset?……..Outdoor Learning of course!

It’s normal for the Team at the Outdoor Learning Service to be asked to develop a bespoke programme  to suit a specific student group to help address their needs. Such a request was made by Beeslack Community High School three years ago. A progressive programme of outdoor learning was required that would be student centred and challenge Zone groups from S1, S2 and S3.

The programme put in place was local and cost effective. In S1 the students complete day based activities; Beach walk, Bush craft skills, Canoeing. As the students progressed to S2 the programme was more challenging; a campcraft training day and a self lead expedition in the Pentland Hills (an amazing achievement considering some students had never slept in a tent before). In S3 the programme culminated in a week long multi-activity programme including; Canoeing, Biking and Coasteering. This year was the first year a group of students had participated right through from S1 to S3.


From the outset the main aims of the programme included;  developing confidence, increasing attendance, improving resilience and promoting life skills/independent living. As the students progressed through the three year programme there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that the main aims were being achieved. In school – greater engagement, better attendance,  less exclusion. In the outdoors, on activities – students pushing themselves physically, mentally – working hard caring and cooking for themselves on the residential.

In addition to the main aims – it was apparent the programme resulted in other significant valuable outcomes. Unlike the classroom setting – the flexibility of teaching in the outdoors enabled us to offer students the opportunity to have holistic enriched experiences. The students could learn at their own pace and opt for ‘challenge by choice’ where they set the level they participated at. The progressive nature of the programme ensured students acquired a mastery of skills and became highly proficient – giving them a great sense of achievement.

Repeatedly, students could be seen moving from a fixed to growth mindset. BCHS and Outdoor Learning staff worked hard to gain trust with the students to allow them to take perceived risks and reframe their fears of failure. Relationship building was a key feature, and took place in the school, the store, the mini-bus and right up to – reassuring, confidence building conversations on the edge of sea outcrops before submersion! The instant feedback often lead to a greater desire to learn and embrace further challenges. In some cases setbacks would take place, but through further discussion, persistence and resilience participation would continue and personal achievements where celebrated and embraced.

Working with such groups addressing some of the issues highlighted above, will inevitability raise attainment, but it requires programmes to take place over a number of years and to be central to other school based learning. When it comes to raising attainment the Outdoor Learning Service is multi-dimensional across all school stages in the authority – for more information follow this link.

In reflection, this programme is an example of great partnership work and highlights one of the many valuable learning strategies that the Outdoor Learning Service provides. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Beeslack Community High School over the last three years.


Outdoor Learning Service Raises Attainment

It’s no surprise to the Outdoor Learning Team that our close partnership work with schools can support students in raising attainment. When making bookings with teachers we highlight how the unique opportunities we provide can do this. Now we have produced an ‘Outdoor Learning Service Raises Attainment’ table that clearly identifies and details  – how our service achieves this. This document details Case Studies which show the depth and breath of the lessons we provide.

The table has 5 key sections;

1. Experiences provided – these are the different possible outcomes from the outdoor experiences we provide. Each outcome can contribute to raising attainment.

2. How does this raise attainment? – this column details how each experience raises attainment – what is it specifically about that activity.  

3. What does this look like? – here more detail is provided on the type of group and the kind of experiences that have taken place.

4. Case studies – this column provides hyper-links to actual case studies.

5. How can this be measured? – here the tools we can use to measure our impact are highlighted.

This table can be used when considering future programmes with the Outdoor Learning Service.  The table can be found by clicking on this link.

A fantastic evidenced based report has been completed by the Low Port Centre in West Lothian. The projects aim was to raise attainment in literacy and numeracy thourgh ‘Outdoor Learning Hubs’. To find out more about it click here.

If you have any further comments or examples regarding how you are using Outdoor Learning in your classroom we are always keen to hear them at the Outdoor Learning Service.



Tay Canoe Expedition – BCHS

The Beeslack CHS Tay canoe expedition took place from the 15th to 18th of May 2017. A short video of the expedition can be seen below. The expedition participants were 6 S3 students. These students were part of a Personal Development Group at the school.

The aims of the expedition were:

  • Complete a progressive canoe programme culminating in a 4 day expedition
  • Develop student’s independent living skills
  • Develop student’s resilience
  • Draw out learning points through daily discussion and review

Before the expedition the group took part in 2 canoe training days at Whiteadder Reservoir and Musselburgh Lagoons. We also completed some camp craft sessions and met with parents to discuss the trip.

The trip was four days long;

  • Day 1 – drive up, meet Biscuit (Canoe coach and river leader), refresh skills on Loch Tay, set up camp and cook dinner
  • Day 2 – canoe river Lyon and short section of Tay, cook dinner and evening activities
  • Day 3 – half day canoe on Tay, strike camp and pack for overnight wild camp. Paddle on Loch Tay to overnight wild camp – campfire!
  • Day 4 –  strike camp, in depth review, paddle Loch Tay, depart for Penicuik

The expedition was challenging for all participants at different times, for many different reasons. We regularly discussed and reviewed the participant’s experiences to draw out learning points and identify transferable skills. The input staff made with the participants was invaluable.  In addition, Biscuit’s input and the efforts he went to, to build strong relationships with the participants quickly – was extremely beneficial.  With his help we managed to get even the most nervous of paddlers down the white water sections with smiles on their faces!  The students that attended worked hard, they gave 100% and participated fully – it was very pleasing to see this – I hope they will now transfer back some of their learning to their daily life.


500+ Pupils Attend 2017 Orienteering Festival – Final Results

Over 500 pupils took part in the recent Orienteering Festival at Vogrie Country House. An amazing turnout to a fantastic event using this superb venue.
A huge thank you to the staff at Vogrie, the Active Schools team, ESOC and all the staff in the Primary Schools who entered their enthusiastic pupils and made the event possible.

The event was organised by the Midlothian Outdoor Learning Service and has been a great success and we hope to run again in 2018.

Three linear courses were set out for P5, P6 and P7 that challenged their navigational abilities.

  • We had over 500 entries-  made up of pairs, teams and solos.
  • A total of 12 primary schools.
  • Several schools brought over 50 pupils, some bringing over 100 – amazing.

All young people appeared to enjoy the opportunity to partake in this event. Plenty of smiles from our confident, successful learners.

Congratulations to all the pupils who took part. The winning schools in each category are:


Adam & Callum – Cornbank PS

Fastest School – Cornbank PS



Kyle – Loanhead PS

Fastest School – Roslin PS 



Aiden – Gorebridge PS

Fastest School – Roslin PS 

Results can be found here: Orienteering Results 2017. The key to the school codes can be found here: ML-ELC Primary School codes  – these are all the results for all schools – you can see how well your individual teams and pupils performed. We will arrange for trophies for the fastest students to be sent to each school.

We will be running more Discover Orienteering in the 2017/18 year, but for those that wish to take their talent further and pit themselves against others from across Scotland then you need to enter some great events coming up;

Scottish Schools Orienteering Competition – Closing date for Entries  – 23rd May 2017

More Orienteering opportunities locally can be found on these club websites: ELO  and ESOC

Discover Biking – Over 250 Students get biking

Over 250 students attended the Discover Biking Sessions run over 8 days. The activities took place at various locations within Midlothian – including Loanhead Park, Penicuik Park and school grounds. The P6 & P7 students came from 8 Schools.

During the sessions the pupils learned how to do a simple bike check. They learned how to change their gears and use their breaks affectively. They put these skills into use by ascending and descending some steep slopes safely. After this they had the opportunity to test their ability on the Bike Skills course – completing the slalom, rumble strip and track stand. Once they practiced that a few times they got timed – with penalty points for any mistakes.

The skills the students learnt were transferable. They could easily complete a simple bike check before a cycle at home, or cycling over the rumble strip is similar to cycling over tree roots in a forest. It was rewarding to see all students’ confidence improve in the two hour session.IMG_0005

There are a few things students and school staff could do to develop their skills further –

(1) Have a look at this web site

(2) Attend the Primary Bike Festival

(3) The Outdoor Learning team regularly go into schools and provide Mountain Biking sessions, if this is of interest please get in touch.

(4) Keep in contact about future Discover Biking sessions

This year again, – Discover Biking was a great success. If your class participated in these activities – why not challenge them further with a journey on bikes next?