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Rewilding Environmental Education – Alladale Wilderness Experience 2024

We believe education is a fundamental building block of conservation and consciousness. An integral part of this vision is the professionally managed five-day school residential programme at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, supported by The European Nature Trust. This initiative is run in partnership with Inverness-based outdoor charity Àban, and offers local children a chance to immerse in the wild, building new experiences, friendships and inspiration.

By Kate Heightman, Outreach Manager

For the past six weeks, more than 120 schoolchildren have enjoyed transformational experiences in the wilds of Scotland's pioneering rewilding project at Alladale Wilderness Reserve. TENT, in partnership with Àban, created a programme of activities and learning sessions designed to connect the links between the development of landscapes, ecosystems, and human exploitation of natural resources. Attending children learned how this has resulted in the current climate and biodiversity crises, and how nature recovery can restore equilibrium in the natural processes that our continued existence depends upon.

Students from Golspie Academy ascend along Glen Mor

During the five days of the course, we travelled by foot into remote parts of the Reserve, where children witnessed the open glens and hilltops that are the legacy of hundreds of years of deforestation, and explored the restored forests where nature is growing ever richer. In smaller groups, they took part in mountain bike expeditions to sites provoking discussion on everything from ecology to energy generation. Meanwhile, simultaneous sessions taught the children how to read the landscape from ordinance survey maps, orient themselves using compasses, and how to safely use sharp knives and kindle fires. One of the most popular activities involved dissecting owl pellets – regurgitated balls of fur and bone, to see if they could construct a complete skeleton from the prey of that nocturnal raptor.

Venison was on the menu (thanks to Ardgay Game) and we used this moment to discuss food security and sustainability; we required the children to practice water conservation and be more conscious of the waste they produce and its disposal; and we showed them Why Not Scotland – a documentary about projects to protect and reintroduce species across Europe, and what’s being done to reverse nature depletion in Scotland (thanks to SCOTLAND: the Big Picture).

Inner journeys are important too, and we facilitated reflection, meditation, and mindfulness; supported individuals to rise to challenges and experience personal achievement; and celebrated our own love for the outdoors, our passion to prevent the loss of any further species, and how our mental health is connected to, and benefits from, time in nature. There’s no WiFi or phone network out in the wilds, and yes, some children even said it was a relief to get a break from their phones. Their final night was spent in hammocks, lulled to sleep by the sway of ancient Caledonian pines in the breeze, and awakened by an orchestra of birds before they returned to their everyday lives.

Every child deserves to experience nature and understand they are part of it, to cherish it, and ensure they have a future of abundance in all things

"I loved learning new things like navigation, about animals, making better and stronger friendships and being outside"
- Pupil, Dornoch Academy

"I liked reaching the top of the mountain and seeing the view. It really is such a beautiful place."
- Pupil, Dingwall Academy

"There can come a time in your life when you feel like everything you’ve ever worked for has prepared you and led you to that point. Finally, it all clicks into place and becomes something more than the sum of the parts. That’s how I feel having just completed the delivery of six weeks of school residentials with Àban Adventure Leaning Community at Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Highlands."

Kate Heightman, TENT Outreach Manager

Funding and delivery of the Alladale Wilderness Experience is provided by The European Nature Trust, and held in partnership with Àban.

discover more and enquire

If you'd like to learn more about Alladale Wilderness Experience, and how your school can join next year's programme, contact Kate, TENT's Outreach Manager – kate@theeuropeannaturetrust.com
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