Journeys in Nature


On 7th and 8th September. 2010, over 90 S2 pupils at Kingussie High School (having completed the John Muir Award the previous year), chose to participate in one of ten outdoor journeys in the Cairngorm National Park. The journeys organised by RSPB Scotland involved different modes of transport – on foot, by pony, by bike or by canoe. Where possible, the pupils were involved at the planning stage. They were joined by ten teachers as well as members of the local community. Each group was accompanied by a facilitator drawn from the SpeyGrian network – a diverse group of artists, ecologists, writers, historians, musicians and educators working across generations. Each journey had a follow-up day when participants were encouraged to share their experiences through a variety of media. Some of these will be included in the ‘Creative Journeys’ touring exhibition planned for Summer 2011. It is hoped that this project is the start of many such collaborative intergenerational ventures.


In 1998 Joyce Gilbert, Head of Education at RSPB Scotland, was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to explore the role of outdoor learning. Returning from four inspirational months in Northern Canada, she established the SpeyGrian Educational Trust. Working across generations the trust offers credible role models and mentors from the local community as positive alternatives to ‘celebrity’ role models. Also with society becoming more ‘risk averse’, opportunities for adventure are developmental aspects sometimes missing in young people’s lives.

Journeys in Nature Aims

  • to use the ‘journey’ concept to discover the intricacy and wonder of the local landscape, wildlife and culture
  • to deliver the Curriculum for Excellence through partnership working
  • to explore how a combination of writing, arts and crafts, ecology and history can help the generations connect and develop a sense of place
  • to understand sustainability, biodiversity and citizenship through shared experiential learning, with a focus on the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity
  • to use the skills and expertise of a diverse group of artists, ecologists, historians and educators to identify opportunities for local community groups and individuals to share their own personal experience, stories and skills across generations.


The project has been supported and funded by the Cairngorms Local Action Group, Awards for All Scotland, Generations Working Together and the Scottish Book Trust.

Success factors

  • Support from the Head Teacher and the staff at Kingussie High School was a key factor.

By opening up to new experiences and relationships the project facilitated experiential learning which led to -

  • changing attitudes
  • new skills
  • increased self-esteem
  • willingness to innovate.


“The concept of a journey is a great way to help people discover the intricacy and wonder of their local landscape, wildlife and culture.” Speygrian Trustee Joyce Gilbert.

“Moving slowly through a landscape is an essential human experience. We can observe the world closely through all the senses. It can free up our creativity and provides a big blast of fresh air! Journeys provide a great context for learning.” Writer Linda Cracknell – leader of the pony journey ‘Wild Words’.

“Kingussie High School is located in a wonderful part of Scotland with a rich outdoor environment. This partnership with agencies and creative individuals is helping us – staff and pupils – more fully appreciate our own learning environment.” John Tracey, Head Teacher Kingussie High School.

“I like older people because they can pass on their experience of growing up here.” Typical comment of younger participants.