Pam Rodway, project co-ordinator, reports
Crofting Connections is a three-year project to establish links between schools and their crofting heritage in the crofting counties of Argyll, Highland, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
Crofting Connections was launched at the SCF gathering in Grantown in September 2009. Our four ‘ambassador’ head teachers from the pilot project Planting to Plate, joined by Margaret Bennett, patron of Crofting Connections, and Steve Carter from Lionacleit High School in Benbecula, addressed the gathering of crofters. Each described the huge benefit to the schools of placing crofting at the centre of the study of science, social studies, food education, health and well-being, cultural and natural heritage, community languages and dialects and expressive arts.
Crofting Connections is welcomed by many schools as an appropriate way of delivering the new Curriculum for Excellence, for pupils at each of the four levels from primary to junior high school.
The programme of work is designed to deepen the links between schools and their crofting heritage. Our young people will learn in the context of their own natural, social and cultural environment.
Crofting was founded on collective working and kinship, originating from turbulent historical events and challenging environmental conditions, to create a rich natural and cultural heritage unique to each community. Much of the UK’s high nature value farmland is found in crofting areas.
The crofter has always worked closely with the natural environment, mostly using low-input, low density agricultural and fishing practices, to provide food, shelter, energy and clothing for the family and the local community.
The agricultural and fishing ‘improvements’ of the 19th and 20th centuries have brought both benefits and challenges to the traditional crofting way of life.
These are now being re-examined in the 21st century, where traditional crofting communities are helping to solve issues such as:
Schools in each area will be supported by a local group with expertise in education, crofting, community building, cultural heritage and the natural environment.
The collective outcome of the project over three years will be a varied and complex picture of crofting past, present and future throughout the Highlands and Islands from the point of view of the younger generation in over fifty communities. It will be presented through harvest feasts and written work, video and audio recordings, film and drama, painting and photography, powerpoint presentations and a project website, in a celebration of the talent and enthusiasm of these young people.
The legacy of the project will be an informed younger generation which will contribute to shaping a vibrant and resilient future for these crofting communities appropriate to the needs of the 21st century.