80 pupils from 40 schools in crofting communities throughout the Highlands and Islands from Argyll, Western isles, Highland, Orkney and Shetland will be coming to Edinburgh this week for a reception in the Scottish parliament to celebrate Crofting Connections, the project that links them with their crofting heritage.
The reception at Holyrood, hosted by Rob Gibson MSP, will be addressed by Cabinet Secretary for Education Michael Russell and Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. The address by these two ministers from the education and rural directorates highlights the fact that Crofting Connections coincides with major legislative reform to ensure crofting has a sustainable and profitable future in the 21st century and also with the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence which encourages learning across subject boundaries in the context of the community.
It is a long way for these young people to come – many are making long and arduous journeys, but they are doing so with much excitement because it gives them the opportunity to showcase the high quality of learning and teaching that is taking place in these remote areas of the Highlands and Islands. Schools are working in close partnership with their own communities, with crofters, artists, crafts people, geologists, archaeologists and local historians, taking learning out of the classroom and giving children and young people a real sense of pride in their own places. This is Curriculum for Excellence in practice.
Why crofting and Crofting Connections matters
Since the 1950s, economic, social and environmental conditions, and changes in
farming and fishing practices have triggered a decline in crofting. Today, there are less than 18,000 active crofts, and the average age of a crofter is over 55.
Crofting Connections will inspire young people to play their part in securing that future by working with and learning from crofters in their own communities.
The Curriculum for Excellence encourages schools to work across subject boundaries and to look beyond the classroom for learning opportunities. Crofting Connections provides an excellent framework for pupils to experience the benefits of interdisciplinary learning and for schools to share good practice.
Children and their crofting communities will participate in a programme of activities that are inspiring, interactive and directly linked to the Curriculum for Excellence.
• Learning practical skills from crofters to and grow and harvest traditional crops.
• Creating food-growing projects to produce fruit and vegetables of the contemporary diet for the school canteen.
• Learning to cook new and traditional recipes and sharing them at community harvest celebrations.
• Running seed genebank trials with help from scientists to study Scottish landraces.
• Studying crofting past and present at sites with historians and archaeologists.
• Learning traditional crofting arts and crafts from local artisans and craftsmen.
• Celebrating crofting culture through working songs, storytelling and poetry.
• Showcasing work through the expressive arts including film, drama and art.
Sustainable lifestyles and heritage
Crofters have always worked closely with the environment, using low input and low impact practices to provide food, shelter, clothing and energy for the family and the local community. In the 21st century, crofting provides an ideal model for renewed interest in healthy food and sustainable living, which respects the environment and provides local solutions to meeting basic needs.
Linking the curriculum
The curriculum needs to include space for learning beyond subject boundaries, so that learners can make connections between different areas of learning. Through
interdisciplinary activities of this kind, young people can develop their organisational skills, creativity, teamwork and the ability to apply their learning in new and challenging contexts. (A Curriculum for Excellence: Progress and Proposals)
Partners and funders
Crofting Connections is a joint project run by the Scottish Crofting Federation and Soil Association Scotland.
Our project partners are Argyll & Bute Council, Cairngorm National Park Authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council.
Crofting Connections is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community LEADER 2007-2013 Programme, Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the Craignish Trust.
For more information see http://www.croftingconnections.com
Contact: project coordinator Pam Rodway mobile 07917 230124