News. Children given a Fresh Start at Dumfries House

23rd of June, 2021

A nature-based learning programme by The Prince’s Foundation that has proven to be a hit with pupils and teachers at a host of schools is set to be rolled out to children across Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, with schools invited to apply for fully-funded workshops and day visits to Dumfries House.

Fresh Start, which promotes nature-based learning and aims to address issues faced by pupils amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, has seen pupils from schools in East Ayrshire — Loudoun Academy, Doon Academy, and Robert Burns Academy — all benefit from open-air learning from specialist tutors in farming, STEM, rural skills, agriculture, field to fork and outdoor activities.

Last week, pupils of Loudoun Academy in Galston completed the programme, having benefitted from open-air learning from specialist tutors in farming, STEM, rural skills, agriculture, field to fork and outdoor activities.

Fresh Start is led by The Prince’s Foundation’s Richard Kay, who says: “The return to school has been intensified for young people after a prolonged period of learning from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Loss of old friendships, feelings of isolation alongside changes to established methods of learning are reported to be risk factors, particularly for children already vulnerable to life changes.”

“The Prince’s Foundation’s Fresh Start programme at Dumfries House is about re-engaging young people back into classrooms. It helps with relationships as they’re doing teamwork in the fresh air and it’s a nice environment for them to learn in. Having started the programme in November, they were really excited about coming back and have really enjoyed the activities.” - PC Jemma Davidson, campus officer at Loudoun Academy.

On the estate’s farm and education garden, pupils herded ducks and built bug hotels. Shelter-building was on the menu at the estate’s residential centre, where survival skills were linked to lessons on the shelter required by different animals in various habitats.

The four-day programme is led by The Prince’s Foundation’s Richard Kay and involves pupils engaging in experiences at an education garden, education farm, dedicated STEM centre, and outdoor centre at Dumfries House estate, near Cumnock.

During the successful pilot of the programme, at Valentin’s Education Farm, school groups learned about food production, discovering the range of related careers and understanding animals’ needs and how the farmer meets them. One of a range of activities undertaken by pupils was duck-herding, where the students used new-found knowledge of a duck’s behaviour coupled with teamwork to execute a plan to move the escapee ducks back to their pen.

At the estate’s Pierburg Building and Kauffman Education Garden, pupils focussed on biodiversity, spending time outdoors and in nature, noticing small details and understanding that processes in nature are reliant and impactful on each other. They collected natural materials to create new bug hotels for the education garden.

At the Morphy Richards STEM Education Centre, young learners found out about air quality and the consequences of global warming while also embarking on a Nature Safari, using GPS trackers to find puzzle boxes that required completion of a numeracy challenge to unlock clues to complete a trail.

Opportunities for schools in Ayrshire are being generously funded by The Greenslade Family Foundation and costs for pupils in Dumfries and Galloway will be funded by The Holywood Trust.

Those interested can find out more by emailing education@dumfries-house.org.uk