At KA, we believe the outdoors provide one of the richest and most influential learning environments, within which lifelong friendships and unforgettable moments are born. Learning doesn’t stop at the classroom. The school focuses on developing independent, resilient and creative young people through a variety of innovative initiatives.
Central to our philosophy is the school’s outdoor education programme, which is part of a wide-ranging educational strategy implemented throughout the school. As part of this, pupils are given regular opportunities to step away from the typical school environment, explore the outdoors and reconnect with nature.
Outdoor learning helps pupils to understand how to look after themselves, make sound judgements and decisions, and take responsibility for their actions.
A growing body of literature links mental, physical and spiritual health directly to our association with nature.
Some of our outdoor experiences are designed so that pupils can learn about how they react, behave and cope when things become uncomfortable, difficult or challenging. Whilst other parts of the outdoor learning curriculum afford our pupils time and space to focus solely on the rejuvenating power and beauty of nature and wild places.
As part of a drive to transform the curriculum, Kelvinside Academy opened its Highland Wilderness Campus in May 2018, following a generous donation from former Rector, John Duff.
Located in the heart of the Cairngorms, just two miles from the Lecht Ski Centre, the campus provides year-round access to mountains, forests and glens. The building has been renovated to accommodate large dormitories, group catering facilities and generous social areas. The Wilderness Campus also boasts two fly fishing rods on a 3-mile beat of the River Don.
For at least one week a year, pupils leave the textbooks behind to go climbing, gorge walking, hiking, mountain biking and more. The Wilderness Campus now plays a vital role in school life and has already being used for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, writing weekends and choir retreats, as well as providing a novel setting for the delivery of core curricular subjects such as Maths and Science.
Outdoor Ed and Learning instructor - Bex Currie
The Wilderness Campus is headed up by Bex Currie, who has eight years’ experience in delivering outdoor learning. Holding qualifications in everything from mountaineering to paddle sports, she is expertly-placed to take children outside their comfort zones and guide them through their adventures.
We live in an age where youngsters are more inclined to pick up a smart phone than a football and that’s not right. It’s a big world out there. There’s so much to discover, and we should be encouraging our children to go out and explore it for themselves. Bex Currie
Our Outdoor Activities
In the summer of 2017, the school took ownership of a 32-foot sailing yacht, named ‘Level Best’. Embarking on sail training voyages from her berth at James Watt Dock Marina in Greenock, pupils will benefit from the challenges offered, sailing around the waters of the River Clyde with possibilities further afield on the West Coast of Scotland.
Kelvinside has also just recently affiliated with the Clyde Cruising Club in order to run a dinghy sailing program at Bardowie Loch throughout the summer term. RYA qualified school staff run the sessions at Bardowie on a weekly basis, after which pupils will have the opportunity to gain RYA qualifications in sailing.
The waters of Bardowie Loch and the River Clyde make for a very good schoolmaster and provide a perfect environment for pupils to build their life skills outwith the walls of the classroom. Pupils have the opportunity to gain more self-confidence and develop great teamwork and leadership skills, whilst also gaining new skills in the more practical aspects of sailing such as boat handling, passage planning, interpreting weather systems.
The Award has three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold and our pupils get the chance to start to work through these levels from S3. Achieving the different levels of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme provides young people with a real sense of self-achievement and is highly regarded by future employers and colleges. It boosts self-confidence and helps them develop their self-reliance.
Within each level, participants must complete four sections: volunteering, skill development, physical recreation and expedition. Gold level participants are required to complete the residential section.
While the school closely supports the pupils through each of the levels, it is very much their personal responsibility to ensure they satisfy each level’s requirements.
Every year all pupils from Junior 5 – Senior 3 participate in a residential activity week. Activities week gives pupils the opportunity to experience new and unfamiliar situations and challenges often working together as a team. It is fondly remembered by many Academicals.
Many activities week destinations are managed by the Abernethy Trust at their centres around the UK. Large numbers of our pupils' successfully complete expeditions as part of the week that includes canoeing and sea kayaking, walking or cycling.
Our Outdoor Education Instructor organises regular events aimed at smaller groups. These include mountain biking at Mugdock Park, canoeing and kayaking on Loch Lomond and hillwalking on Ben Lomond.
Every year we offer pupils the opportunity to travel and explore on one of the many educational trips arranged by KA staff.
Recent opportunities have included: An expedition to Malawi to work at a local orphanage and to develop an irrigation system; a geography trip to explore the unique landscape of Iceland; an educational exchange with our American partner school, LCDS, near New York; an Italian ski trip; rugby trips to France and Italy and hockey and handball trips to Spain.
The CCF is a youth organisation supported by the Ministry of Defence with Her Majesty the Queen as its Captain General. The CCF in the United Kingdom is made up of over 250 school Contingents, the majority of which are from independent schools. Kelvinside Academy runs its own Cadet Force with Royal Navy, Army and RAF sections. Kelvinside's CCF is the largest contingent in Scotland. Membership is compulsory for all S3 pupils with many pupils choosing to remain in the CCF through to S6. Members of staff serve as officers while senior pupils can be appointed as NCOs. The main aim of the CCF is to train pupils to become more self-reliant and develop powers of leadership. Through CCF pupils have the opportunity to try flying, sailing, camping, shooting, orienteering, engineering and many other activities.
Army skills - Army training will develop skills such as map reading, drill running and practice, safe weapon handling and field craft and section tactics.
Royal Air Force skills - RAF training will provide students with knowledge of navigation, the theory of flight and aircraft recognition. When cadets are sufficiently skilled pupils are given the chance to go flying from Glasgow Airport.
Navy skills - Pupils will acquire basic naval knowledge through the study of sailing theory and practice, chart work and navigation and will engage in a variety of leadership tasks. There are also plenty of opportunities to sail and handle a power boat.
With a huge outdoor play area, access to all-weather pitches, playing fields and wild gardens our nursery pupils enjoy extensive daily outdoor learning come rain or shine. They also now have a weekly structured Forest Kindergarten experience, allowing children to play freely in nearby woodland. As well as increased physical activity, it is a great place for children to witness nature first hand and discover more independence through real-life experiences.
Forest School and the Botanic Gardens
The Junior School make regular use of the wonderful outdoor learning environments of the nearby Children’s Wood and Botanic Gardens. The Children’s Wood on North Kelvin Meadow is the last wild space in the west end of Glasgow. Our Junior School teachers have specialist Forest School training and make regular use of this for den building, environmental art, tree and flower planting, learning to use tools as well as unstructured play and bonfire building. Being outside, even if it’s just to play and have fun, can reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem and attention span in children. The children love continuing their classroom learning in the environs of outside space –literacy, science and expressive arts can all be explored in a completely different way.
All adventure activities are led or instructed by suitably qualified and experienced staff. Kelvinside Academy takes safety very seriously and strives to set the highest possible standards within the outdoor and adventure activity industry. Risk assessments are in place for all activities and are under constant review. Support, guidance and advice is sought from external organisations and agencies where appropriate.