At ESMS, connecting our pupils with the outdoors is an essential part of school life. We have been running outdoor learning programmes for over 55 years and we are now excited to introduce families to our new Manager of Outdoor Learning, which is a brand new post at ESMS, with responsibility for the outdoor learning provision across all our three schools. We hope you will enjoy getting to know Mr Ogilvie a little bit better below, including how his love of the outdoors was instilled from childhood (climbing his first Munro aged eight!) and just why he believes the outdoors is "the best, original and most relevant classroom for learning".
He also shares some outdoor activity ideas for families of all ages to take part in over the upcoming summer break.
You have been in your new role for just over one month now - how are you finding life here at ESMS?
My first month has been a whirlwind of delivering the hill-walks on the COVID adjusted Projects experiences for S1-3. I have been to the Pentland Hills on 16 of the 18 days, so am very familiar with the area now if anyone needs any tips for routes! This period has been a great opportunity to meet almost all of the students across both schools from those year groups as well as allowing me to meet and chat with a huge number of staff from across the schools and begin to find out more about the fit of Outdoor Learning and DofE within the culture of ESMS. I’m looking forward to having a bit of time to talk more with colleagues and plan for the future but I’ll still be out on the hills and in the water delivering DofE Silver and Gold Practice ‘expeditions’ over the coming weeks.
So far I’ve been blown away by the levels of enthusiasm, passion, fun and kindness. I have had a fantastic ESMS welcome from pupils and staff alike – it’s a really great place to be.
What aspects of the role have you enjoyed most so far?
I’m particularly enthusiastic about the fact that this role spans all areas of ESMS, from Nursery through to Sixth Form. This will allow me to engage with pupils and staff from across the School to foster the holistic development of our pupils. Being able to follow them from early years right through school and prepare them to venture out into the world is extremely exciting. It is my hope that every pupil will positively benefit from the outdoor learning experiences they have at ESMS, through guidance, self-discovery and personal ambition.
How did you discover your passion for Outdoor Learning, and why do you think learning outdoors is so important?
I was brought up on a diet of mountains and wilderness. My parents were both keen outdoors people. My Father was a mountaineer and my Mother a small dinghy sailor and their passion rubbed off heavily on me from an early age. As a baby I was carried up many hills before later walking up my first Munro (Ben More on Mull) aged eight. In my teenage years, I was a Scout who enjoyed kayaking, canoeing and sailing and later turned to rock climbing and mountaineering and in my early 20s I picked up mountain biking.
For me, the outdoors is the best, original and most relevant classroom for learning. We can learn so much about ourselves, others and the world around us as well as our fit, impact and responsibility within that. We can learn about failure, about triumph, about adversity and about overcoming it, about supporting friends and being supported by them, about shared experiences that can help steer us through life. We can develop a fuller understanding of our personal strengths and weaknesses, then address our weaknesses and play to our strengths. We can learn to simply enjoy or give back to our surroundings or to challenge ourselves to achieve a personal goal. We can contextualise theoretical academic learning and by doing this, create critical thinkers who become hungry for a deeper understanding and, in turn, nurture a philosophy based on the conservation of our natural world. But, perhaps most important of all is that the outdoors is free to access, rich in opportunity and accessible to all, as long as we do so with thought for our environment and for others.
What motivates you in your role as Manager of Outdoor Learning?
A true passion for working in the outdoors come rain or shine will always keep me motivated! A natural optimist with a keen eye for developing opportunities and involving others in decision making. I love to see others thrive, develop and achieve their potential in the outdoors and transfer these experiences to other areas of life. It is that simple.
What are you looking forward to most in your new role here at ESMS?
I am looking forward to getting to know the School, its students, and its staff, to gaining a fuller understanding of the culture at ESMS and then to contributing meaningfully to current opportunities and to developing new opportunities that chime with young people across the schools.
What has been your best adventure so far?
I have had many outdoor adventures from high altitude mountain trips, to running on mountains across the globe, to canoeing expeditions, to desert treks, and to long-distance cycling. I have loved them all, however, I’d have to say that being a father to two boys aged 12 and 14 is my highlight adventure.
Seeing them grow up and become more and more independent with each passing week is the most satisfying feeling. My eldest is, whilst I write, bikepacking from our home in Linlithgow, with three of his friends, off-road, to Aviemore and back over this weekend, a journey of over 500km. This is my best adventure – seeing others develop independent skills in the outdoors through a process of supervision, knowledge transfer and their hard work to get them there. I will always get just as excited about other people heading off on an adventure of their own as I do about heading off on one myself.
Finally, for families inspired by what the outdoors can offer, what activities would you recommend for enjoying some outdoor fun during the summer holidays?
So many… I will list five of my favourite below to suit a range of ages. (Please note some of which will require parental approval or supervision).
1. Try sleeping in a tent in your garden or perhaps, if the weather is good, then under the stars. If you are older then maybe venture further afield.
2. Use Google Earth or similar to create a 2km walk (or more if you fancy it) from your house, which links up as much green space as you can manage. Walk the route and see how much wildlife (flora and fauna) you can spot and identify. If you can’t identify things at the time then take pictures and look them up once home. Remember, leave only footprints and take only pictures!
3. Try building a small den from natural materials (without destroying anything – dead branches or leaves on the ground are good). Take pictures and share them with friends or your teacher when you come back to school.
4. The Se7en Challenge: Edinburgh has 7 hills (Calton Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Arthur’s Seat, Castle (Esplanade), Braid Hill, Blackford Hill & Craiglockhart Hill (East) – how many can you get to the top of in the 7 weeks of the holidays, or perhaps in a 7-day period? Set a challenge to suit your age, enthusiasm and fitness and perhaps consider joining up with friends or family to share the experience!
5. For more ideas try Googling ‘Microadventures’. There will be plenty of things here to provide inspiration.
Remember to keep safe, discuss and share your plans and make sure you look after yourself and others. Happy adventuring in the sun!