'Flourishing Children: Childhood, Nature and Community' The 7th Annual Andrew Raven Trust weekend


Ardtornish House, Morvern

The 7th Andrew Raven Trust weekend took place 14th – 16th June 2013, at Ardtornish House in Morvern, with about 30 participants, additional visitors to open sessions on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and groups of students from two local schools for a workshop through Saturday.

Full report

The weekend programme, on the theme Flourishing Children: Childhood, Nature and Community, was conceived, developed and curated by Evelyn Arizpe of University of Glasgow and Fiona Carnie, currently of the RSA Academy, in discussion with Amanda Raven, ART chair, and the trustees. Both Evelyn and Fiona have participated in previous ART weekends and were friends of Andrew’s.

Presentations and discussions during the weekend included

  • Mairi Hedderwick, author of the popular Katie Morag stories, on the influence of children’s picture books with authentic rural storylines and locations
  • Bob Davis of Glasgow University on a philosophical and ecological perspective on childhood
  • Julie Wilson of Education Scotland on adventures in improvised living – building well-being, resilience and learning power through adventurous learning, outdoor exploration and discovery
  • Rob Bushby of the John Muir Trust on the John Muir Award scheme for young people
  • Sally York of the Forestry Commission Scotland on Forest Schools
  • Caroline Bagelman of Glasgow University on engaging with indigenous community children on the west coast of Canada through local food and art
  • Sam Harrison of Open Ground on place-based learning.

There was a choice of three activities on the Saturday afternoon: participation in an art workshop led by Catrin Webster and Sarah Aleck, who are practising artists and teachers of the arts, based in Wales and England; a visit to Lochaline Primary School to discuss plans for the development of their school grounds; and a visit to Achabeag Woods with Jake Willis. Saturday morning also offered a now traditional short walk after breakfast, to the Ardtornish estate’s hydro-electric scheme, which has progressed and become established over the past few years, led by Angus Robertson.

Woven through the weekend, and stimulated by these other activities, groups of participants progressively met and developed thoughts on three thematic areas, which they then presented in creative ways to the other participants.

  • One group considered the question What are the essential components of childhood experience that enable children and adults to flourish in contemporary society?
  • A second group discussed How do we foster the values, skills and attitudes that enable and encourage young people to make a positive contribution?
  • The third group looked at What can be done to help those in urban environments understand the challenges facing rural landscapes and communities and vice versa?

An innovation this year, which emerged as a key part of the theme, was the engagement of younger, local people in the weekend, through the art workshop activities throughout the day on Saturday. In preparation for the afternoon art workshop for the other participants, Catrin and Sarah held a workshop with students from the local Tobermory High School and Ardnamurchan High School in the morning. The students then became the teachers in the afternoon session, leading the group of participants who had opted for that workshop in a series of looking, drawing and printing activities.

Three of the students from Tobermory then took part in a panel discussion among all the participants, chaired by Craig Biddick, their headteacher. The discussion and reflections considered the experience of learning and teaching outside the classroom; of younger people teaching older people; and the experience of engaging in practical, creative activities and learning, even (or especially) if one does not consider oneself ‘artistic’.