Inspired by her participation in a Natural Change project, Principal Teacher Roseleen Shanley transformed sustainability educational practice across Bucksburn Academy. Through her work the Aberdeen comprehensive secondary school were runners up twice in the Eco Schools competition in their first two years of participation (the winning primary schools had many years of experience); developed a variety of long term partnerships with public, private and third sector organisations; attracted EU funding for international collaboration; and has been commended for its achievements by the Scottish Parliament.
Roseleen cites her experience on the NC project as the inspiration for her work in sustainability and says that she is now:
Committed to teaching sustainability and citizenship where young people become the leaders and catalysts for encouraging others to live in a more sustainable way.
While the school had been involved in environmental partnership projects for many years staff and pupils were concerned that these tended to be short term, one off projects. As a result of Natural Change, Roseleen worked with pupils and staff to set up structures for partnership working, leading to collaborations with organisations including the National Trust for Scotland, John Muir Trust, local businesses, Aberdeen City Council, Bucksburn and Newhills Community Council, British Council, University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon’s University, Scottish Natural Heritage and North East of Scotland Biological Records (NESBReC).
A central feature of the new approach was a model for sustainable lifestyles developed by pupils and staff in consultation with community partners. The Bucksburn Community Sustainability Model (BCSM) includes the following elements:
- Neighbourhood priorities to meet school, business and community needs;
- Accessing community knowledge and skills and transferring these to others;
- Developing intergenerational, lifelong learning, inclusion and commitment;
- Strategies to develop the leadership capacity in a school and its community;
- Ensuring the four capacities for the Curriculum for Excellence are met;
- Celebrating community success to inspire, motivate, build communities, and ensure lifelong learning is encouraged and sustained.
Using the model pupils, which incorporates the John Muir Award, teachers, parents, community and business groups first worked together to tidy a nearby Sclattie Wood, build a path, put up bat and bird boxes, plant bulbs and plants and create an outdoor classroom. Roseleen says that the outdoor classroom is available to all subject departments, “bringing outdoor experience to the heart of the school”. The model subsequently informed a range of intergenerational, sustainable citizenship projects which have changed pupil and adult attitudes to the environment as being much more than ‘tree hugging’.
Pupils also used the BCSM to research alternative, non-carbon energy sources as part of a European project. Through the Comenius Project:
- Bucksburn Academy has formed links with schools and colleges in Germany, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands.
- The young people involved have investigated renewable forms of energy in their own countries, and shared what they find out with their European partners.
- Pupils presented results of this ongoing work to a Scottish audience of delegates from industry, education, environmental groups, community and local government at the ‘Re-thinking Energy’ conference in March 2012.
- Roseleen and her pupils have attended national and international conferences on renewable energies; visited innovative community initiatives in other European countries; and formed partnerships with renewable energy companies and training agencies.
Working with Aberdeen Univeristy the school has researched the pupil leadership skills developed through the BCSM. The S5/S6 John Muir class made up of pupils following vocational and academic programmes was supported in involving and teaching local cluster Primary pupils in Sclattie Wood. The research identified the following benefits:
- Seniors have developed an insight into how people learn which has aided their own learning;
- Primary pupils have loved being taught by the Seniors;
- Seniors’ personal and social skills, particularly in the areas of personal confidence, communication and leadership, were enhanced;
- Pupils have developed a greater knowledge and understanding of, and sense of care for, their natural heritage.
Overall the results from the range of development inspired by Roseleen’s participation in Natural Change include:
- Greater respect for young people based on their experience of working with them, among the community council, businesses and the local authority;
- Improved staff partnership skills in facilitating community connections, and involvement in joint programmes;
- Voice for young people, through knowing how local government and a community council work;
- Development of pupil skills in working together – with other ages and abilities;
- Improved attitude of pupils, reflecting school ethos – ‘I can do’ approach;
- Changed behaviour towards the environment and the natural heritage;
- Greater personal confidence and capacity for leadership in pupils.
The work which has come out of the Community Sustainability Model has brought many people together around common goals. Roseleen says that in all this work, she has received:
Huge support from colleagues at school, business partners, community members, parents and pupils…
At the time of writing this case study Bucksburn Academy were awarded the Bio Diversity Award for the North East of Scotland’s Secondary School showing excellence in Bio Diversity work.