Going Wild about Scotland through November

December 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Our Wild about Scotland bus has been up and down the country in November, visiting schools across Dumfries and Galloway, Moray, South Ayrshire, Fife, West Lothian, Perthshire and South Lanarkshire. We also reached an exciting milestone – visiting our 200th school!


Celebrating visiting our 200th school!

Since the project began in August 2014, we have delivered almost 400 educational sessions to 8600 pupils in 31 out of 32 school districts in Scotland, not to mention the 8800 members of the public that have come on board during open days and events.


Celebrating visiting our 200th school!

When we’re not on the road, we are always busy making additional resources and extending what the project can offer. We’ve recently developed an interactive story session for nursery children following The Adventures of Polly the Puffin. With many schools having nurseries attached, we wanted to give nurseries a chance to explore the bus and learn about one of Scotland’s most charismatic animals.


Celebrating visiting our 200th school!

In our travels this month we stopped in at Robert Burns’ birthplace in Alloway, near Ayr and WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) Caerlaverock reserve, which was featured on BBC Autumnwatch. Despite torrential weather, we even saw some of the stars of the show – the barnacle geese.

See you next month,
Jamie and Lindsay

(Wild about Scotland Education Officers)

WaS_Brodie#Brodie knows best

Inspired by Autumnwatch, Brodie’s been learning all about the barnacle geese that call Scotland their home over winter.

The UK hosts migrating birds all year round from African ospreys in the summer months to Icelandic whooper swans in winter. Being only a few miles from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) site in Caerlaverock near Dumfries this month we took the opportunity to see the amazing barnacle geese that had flown 1000 miles from Svalbard in the Arctic circle to the Solway Firth. These geese are long distance experts capable of flying over 120,000 miles in a lifetime from their breeding sites in the north to the wintering sites in the south of Scotland. This WWT site has been an incredible conservation story over the last 40 years increasing the numbers of geese from just 300 to around 35,000 by managing the marsh and pasture that the birds rely on so much.


Top teacher comments and Tweets

“Hands on, interactive activities for pupils to take part in. Amazing resources and friendly hosts providing lots of information and guidance for pupils” Dalyrmple Primary School.

“Very hands on and discussion based. Children enjoyed looking for lonks between the items. Staff good at extending children’s thinking through discussion” Lochside Primary

“The resources were fantastic. The presenters were fantastic with the children” Lockerbie Primary

“Hands on, interactive session was interesting and engaging” Castleview Primary

“Lots of active learning opportunities. High level of discussion. Level aimed appropriately” Auchtertool Primary.





Next month- December

Next month we continue our tour, visiting schools in the Central Belt including Falkirk, West Lothian and Fife.


Going Wild about Scotland through August!

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Project manager Ruth Fraser and camera-shy admin assistant Karen Swift on the phone!

Project manager Ruth Fraser and camera-shy admin assistant Karen Swift on the phone!

While the schools were still off we spent the first half of August beavering away in our office at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, preparing for the coming year. We have laid out our plan for the year as we continue to take our Wild about Scotland bus to schools throughout the country. Over the summer we welcomed two new members of the team. Karen Swift, based in the office, will be dealing with school bookings. So if you request a visit you’ll likely speak to her first. Ruth Fraser is our new project manager. Ruth has been an RZSS Senior Education Officer at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo for many years and has previously been involved in teaching school groups visiting the Zoo, running the Zoo’s summer school and has worked on a linking project with schools in the Falkland Islands.

Wellies at the ready for searching for mini-beasts!

Wellies at the ready for searching for mini-beasts!

We also developed a brand new session, ‘Endangered Animals’, in which children uncover clues about the main threats to wildlife in Scotland. They then think about how they could change their everyday behaviour to have a positive impact on the environment.

We kicked off our first week of the new term visiting schools close to home in Edinburgh, West Dunbartonshire and South Lanarkshire. For one lucky class of P1s we were there for their very first day of school. Hopefully we didn’t get their new uniforms too muddy looking for mini-beasts! We spent the last week of August in the Highlands, visiting schools around Inverness. It was a great week surrounded by purple hills and lots of red squirrels.

On 29 August we celebrated our first birthday. Marking one year since the project launched at St Paul’s Primary School, Whiteinch. 141 schools on and we’re still going strong!

Heather-covered hills near Drumnadrochit.

Heather-covered hills near Drumnadrochit.

As part of our focus on local biodiversity, we made some short videos showing how to make your school grounds or garden a better place for wildlife by building a simple bird feeder, a mini-beast hotel and a pond in a bucket. We were lucky to have a fantastic wildlife filmmaker Barrie Williams help us out and we filmed in our newly created wildlife garden at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. Watch this space for their release!

See you next month,
Jamie and Lindsay

From the driver’s seat

WaS_DriverEach month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland.

New term, new year, new destinations. Looking forward to them all. First week went well in the central belt, although I always find navigating through Glasgow a challenge! The roads are always busy and many low bridges to avoid and one way systems – not for the faint hearted. The recently opened extension of the M74 is great for accessing west Glasgow – helps a lot!

It was great to see the friendly faces of the team again after the summer break. During the break the bus had been for a full service and safety inspection. Thank you for the good work Graycoll. All ship shape and ready for the miles ahead…

#Brodie knows best


Scotch Argus butterfly, found near Drumnadrochit

Scotch Argus butterfly, found near Drumnadrochit

Brodie’s mini-beast of the month

Brodie’s mini-beast of the month is this beautiful Scotch Argus butterfly found near Drumnadrochit. As the name suggests it is native to Scotland. In England it is only found in two colonies in Cumbria. It can be distinguished from the similar Mountain Ringlet butterfly by the white centre of its eyespots.

Top teacher comments and Tweets



Next month- September

“The Wild about Scotland project linked well to our Outdoor Learning Programme”
Cathkin Primary School

“Children enjoyed searching habitats and were very excited discovering the insects” St Francis Primary

“Children enjoyed rummaging for beasts and then examining them through the magnifying glass”
St Francis Primary

Going Wild about Scotland through March

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jamie with pupils from Williamston Primary his old school

Jamie with pupils from Williamston Primary his old school

We’ve been up and down the country in March visiting schools in Perth and Kinross, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire and the Scottish Borders.

Our beaver sessions were a particular favourite in Perthshire, where many pupils (and teachers!) had seen signs of beaver activity in the local area. It was therefore interesting for them to learn more about beaver ecology and discuss the impact they have on the environment. The Tayside beavers were not part of the official re-introduction trial but are thought to have been living in the area since 2006, probably originating from an accidental release from a private collection. The Tayside Beaver Study Group (TBSG), made up of land owners and conservation groups, including the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), are now monitoring the population.

We enjoyed a fantastic day welcoming aboard members of the public at the Loch of the Lowes Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve near Dunkeld. A beautiful, peaceful area, it was great to share ideas with their staff and volunteers on a similar mission to connect people with nature.

Anna, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, joins us for British Science Week 2015.

Anna, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, joins us for British Science Week 2015.

Another highlight was visiting Williamston Primary in Livingston. The pupils were very excited to learn that this was our education officer Jamie’s old school! We also celebrated British Science Week by having PhD students from the University of Edinburgh join us at schools. It was great for the children to meet working scientists and learn about the day-to-day tasks involved in carrying out scientific research.

We visited schools in the Borders for the first time this month, meaning our bus has so far reached twenty five out of thirty two local authorities in Scotland! Here we carried out our first mini-beast session of the year. With not many leaves on the trees yet, the children got stuck in and got their hands dirty digging for creepy-crawlies under rocks and in the soil. We look forward to seeing what else will emerge as the weather gets warmer…

Bus driver DaveFrom the driver’s seat

Each month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland.

Our bus in a former life on the streets of Newcastle. Photo by Daniel Stazicker

Our bus in a former life on the streets of Newcastle. Photo by Daniel Stazicker

An interesting assignment for me this month was meeting with bus enthusiast Daniel Stazicker and friends. He has followed our bus since it was first used on city services in Newcastle in 1995 (pictured). After many hard years of extensive use, it was transferred to Stagecoach Scotland West where it became a school bus in Kilmarnock, before being withdrawn and donated for the Wild about Scotland project. It was good to know the history of the bus as many visitors are curious about its transformation!

#Brodie knows best

BrodieKnowsBestEach month Brodie the bus mascot answers your questions about science and nature.

Q. Where do mini-beasts go during the winter?

A. Mini-beasts or invertebrates (animals without a backbone) are ectothermic, this means that unlike us they cannot generate their own body heat. So over winter they have a wide range of strategies to cope with the cold weather. Some invertebrates avoid the cold altogether by migrating to a warmer area. Others undergo a form of hibernation, lowering their metabolic rate to an absolute minimum where all growth and development is suspended. Some hibernate as adults, for example, ladybirds cluster together underneath rocks or in amongst rotting wood. Others, such as caterpillars and beetles, hibernate as larvae and burrow in leaf litter or further underground. Some can even replace the water in their bodies with glycerol – a type of anti-freeze! Dragonflies and damselflies are nymphs over the winter period, staying deeper underwater in rivers and ponds to avoid the freezing surface water. Honey bees stay together in their hives, vibrating their wings to generate heat. So mini-beasts are still around over winter, they are just more active and easier to spot in the warmer months!

Submit your questions for next month on Twitter @WildaboutScot using #Brodieknowsbest

Top teacher comments and tweets

“Fantastic delivery- children really enjoyed it! Thank you!” St Columba’s Junior School.

“The range of activities not only challenged the children, but encouraged independent learning”, Sacred Heart Primary School.

“Great curriculum links to habitat work. It is great for the children to connect their learning in a Scottish context”, Beith Primary School.

“A fantastic workshop that all pupils thoroughly enjoyed. The practical stations engaged and motivated all”, Clarkston Primary School.

“Curriculum for Excellence places lots of emphasis on learning about Scotland” Deanburn Primary School.

“Children loved the concept of learning on the bus” Langlee Primary School.

“Thanks for coming, great to see the children so enthusiastic and working in a team!” Lauder Primary School.

Next month – April

We are visiting schools in Aberdeenshire, Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Perth and Kinross.

Upcoming Public Events where you can see the bus:

  • Thursday 21st May – ‘Puffin Fest’ at the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick.
  • Saturday 23rd – Sunday 24th May – Scotland’s Big Nature Festival, Levenhall Links, Musselburgh.

For more information about the Wild about Scotland project and to see when the bus is next in your area, visit our website at www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland, follow us on twitter @WildaboutScot, or like our Facebook page.

Chief Executive’s Blog

February 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Well Happy Chinese New Year. The year of the goat has begun and, as we enter spring, the days are getting gradually warmer and longer. Spring and summer always prove to be eventful seasons for everybody at RZSS, with the main breeding season for many animals in full swing and a jam-packed set of summer school classes just around the corner.

Velma the velociraptor

Velma the velociraptor

Velma the Velociraptor has been out and about this week ahead of Dinosaurs Return! which will start in April. She has been meeting the public and has proved to be a big hit so far at Edinburgh Zoo and Dynamic Earth. She will continue to meet and greet visitors at various venues across Edinburgh and Glasgow until the launch.

On Monday we receive our actual animatronic dinosaurs, all the way from America. Shipped across the North Atlantic Ocean, they are as realistic as possible and are based on actual DNA research of fossilised dinosaur skin and bones. It will be all hands to the top of the hill as these giants are unloaded and assembled on site. We are inviting press along, so there should be some really memorable photographs taken recording the occasion.

Wild about Scotland bus outside Scottish Parliament

Wild about Scotland bus outside Scottish Parliament

The Wild about Scotland bus, our educational outreach programme in association with Clydesdale Bank, visited Edinburgh Zoo this week, with lots of children taking the opportunity to hop on board and learn about Scotland’s native species. Then yesterday (Thursday 19 February) the mobile classroom pulled up at the Scottish Parliament to engage with MSPs as part of the 10th anniversary of Scottish Environment Week. MSPs including Mike MacKenzie, Bill Kidd, Christine Grahame and Liam McArthur – to name just some – ‘got on board’ the interactive classroom. During the visit to Parliament, MSPs were asked to vote and tweet their hopes for the future of Scottish biodiversity.

If you are interested in the bus coming to your school, please go to our website to request a visit http://www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland . You can also follow all the action from the bus, including the activity at Scottish Parliament yesterday, via our dedicated Twitter feed https://twitter.com/WildaboutScot

14_12_04_ScottishWildcat_1_kp_fbMeanwhile, our Scottish wildcat conservation work is ongoing. This week our team meet with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and estate managers in Ardnamurchan, to discuss of the plight of the Scottish wildcat. We are working with land managers to allow us to better monitor the wildcat population and ensure that any predator control being used is wildcat friendly. This crucial work will help to provide the Scottish wildcat with safer areas to roam and contribute to the future survival of this species.

All of the above is sadly very relevant in a week when the world’s largest earwig has been declared extinct. The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) grew up to a maximum of eight centimetres long, with the last confirmed adult being spotted as far back as 1967. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has now declared the species extinct, changing its status from Critically Endangered. Since the early 1960s its habitat has been degraded, with the stones that it lived under being removed from the island by the construction industry. Through education, research and conservation, we must all work hard together to make sure examples like this do not continue to happen.

“The most important environmental issue is one that is rarely mentioned, and that is the lack of a conservation ethic in our culture.”

– Gaylord Nelson

Going Wild about Scotland through December

January 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Brodie and Gillespie build a ‘Hailman!’

Brodie and Gillespie build a ‘Hailman!’

Whilst Edinburgh was battered with snow showers back in early December, the Wild about Scotland team were fighting against strong winds and hail (enough even for Brodie and Gillespie to build a ‘Hailman’). A storm had set in over Scotland, but fortunately we have heating on the bus so we were still cosy. December saw the team keep fairly close to home, just in case the winter weather took a turn for the worst.

Our bus managed to visit Clydesdale Bank branch in Irvine.

Our bus managed to visit Clydesdale Bank branch in Irvine.

We visited Perth & Kinross, West Lothian, East Dunbartonshire, all over Ayrshire and close by Edinburgh. In that time we visited 11 schools and even managed to squeeze in a photograph at a Clydesdale Bank branch in Irvine. So far we have visited 53 schools in 17 local authorities and taught 1,918 pupils!

Crime scene task in our Wildcat lesson - ‘Who done it?’

Crime scene task in our Wildcat lesson – ‘Who done it?’

Beaver and Scottish Wildcat lessons continued throughout the month and further developed the investigation and observation skills of the pupils coming aboard. A particular highlight for the pupils of St. Winnings Primary School in North Ayrshire was the workshop designed to get the pupils thinking about persecution of Scottish Wildcats. The station is set up as a crime scene and allows the pupils to look through evidence to work out which animal stole and ate chickens from a fictional farm in the Cairngorms. A teacher wrote ‘…all the pupils were actively engaged and loved the group tasks – particularly the crime scene task.’

Brodie Knows Best!

BrodieKnowsBestBrodie the toy beaver is the bus mascot and helps children learn all about beavers and their habitat

Beaver lodges are very different from dams. Dams are built to block flowing water and flood areas so the beavers can move around safely in water. Lodges on the other hand are used as a safe shelter and have at least two chambers, which include areas for feeding and sleeping.

From the Driver’s Seat….

Bus driver DaveEach month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland.

When I was made aware of my successful application for the Wild about Scotland bus driver back in August I decided to do a little research into the origins of our double decker, as I am a huge bus enthusiast. I found out that the bus was bought new by Stagecoach in 1996 and ended its working life in 2014 at their Kilmarnock garage painted in designated school bus colours. To my delight we were to spend a week in the Kilmarnock area during December and were allowed to park the bus in the Stagecoach garage where our bus was based.

Our bus meets its sisters in Kilmarnock before a day on the road

Our bus meets its sisters in Kilmarnock before a day on the road

I have taken some photographs of our bus parked next to its sisters still in their school livery (note the registration numbers as they run in sequence) as 5 were bought and delivered to Stagecoach on the same day in 1996. Our bus is now having Kilmarnock pupils on board for lessons who could have travelled to school on it last year. All the local Stagecoach drivers acknowledged their old bus with a hearty wave every time we passed by.

Top Teacher Comments and Tweets

Hands on approach/interactive session engaged children.’ Abernethy Primary

‘Children were able to achieve success—Suitable for abilities of all children.’ Boghall Primary

‘The quality of the discussion was to a high standard’ St Winnings Primary

‘Pupils were using active learning strategies. They were engaged through investigation from start to finish.’ Shortlees Primary.


Next Month – January

First up for 2015 are Edinburgh, Fife, East Renfrewshire, West Lothian, Glasgow and South Lanarkshire so keep your eyes peeled for Brodie in a town near you!

Chief Executive’s Blog

December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment


Things have been very festive week at both Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh Zoo this week.

HWP_MuskOxBOEUFF_CreditJanMorseAt the Park, Boeuf, the six month old muskox, was surprised with special festive enrichment – papier-mâché Christmas puddings. First of all, I must say a big thank you to the staff and volunteers who spent hours building up papier-mâché balls, then painting them to such a high standard. Boeuf and his parents, dad Myse and mum Karin, kicked and head butted the enrichment about the enclosure and Myse appeared to take great pleasure in completely destroying the pudding. It is wonderful to see the family together as Boeuf is a real success story for the Park. Muskox are notoriously difficult to breed due to high neonatal mortality rates and a low tolerance to parasites. Wet weather can also make calves in particular susceptible to pneumonia.

Christmas also arrived early for giant panda Tian Tian who received a panda cake in the shape of a Christmas tree and topped with a carrot star. Panda cake is a firm favourite with both Tian Tian and Yang Guang and is a special nutritional supplement they receive daily as part of their regular diet. Keepers placed the cake on her climbing frame (in an area she wouldn’t usually receive food) as an added enrichment for her. Tian Tian wandered and sniffed about the enclosure before finally finding the cake. She climbed up beside it and gently lifted the star from the top before eating the whole cake. You can watch it all here:

There was more excitement at the Giant Panda Experience this week as it was announced that Edinburgh Zoo has been nominated for two prizes at the Giant Panda Zoo Awards 2014. Yang Guang has been nominated for “Favourite Panda Outside of China” and one of his keepers, Michael Livingstone, has been nominated for the “Panda Keeper of the Year” award. Panda fans and experts from around the world are invited to vote for their favourites at: www.GiantPandaZoo.com

Wild About Scotland Bus

Wild About Scotland Bus

To round up the week and truly symbolise the start of the Christmas holidays, the specially designed ‘Wild about Scotland’ educational bus has just finished its first term on the road. Since its launch at St Paul’s Primary School, Whiteinch on 29 August, the bus has travelled 2377 miles to visit 53 primary schools, and welcomed on-board a massive 1,918 eager to learn pupils! The interactive classroom has been developed by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and brought to life by a partnership with Clydesdale Bank.

As I sign off for 2014, I wish you all the very best of wishes for the festive season and the new year ahead.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together

~ Vincent Van Gogh

Going Wild about Scotland through November

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Wild about Scotland in Stranraer at the Clydesdale Bank

Wild about Scotland in Stranraer at the Clydesdale Bank

The ‘Wild about Scotland’ Educational Bus’ third month on the road has come to a close. A partnership with Clydesdale Bank, the interactive classroom visited 17 schools over the month – they started down in Dumfries and Galloway, then made their way up to Perth and Kinross before continuing to Angus. Along the way, the bus stopped at Glamis Castle and a couple of Clydesdale branches.

Wild about Scotland at Glamis Castle

Wild about Scotland at Glamis Castle

Throughout the month, the bus engaged 420 students with native Scottish wildlife. The winter weather began to set in over November and many of the little creatures for the mini-beast lessons went into hibernation. In the middle of November, the mini-beast session was replaced with our ‘Beavers & Wildcats’ programme for the winter months. The ‘Beavers’ lesson encourages children to consider what they have learnt about the mammal and decide whether they would like it to be re-introduced or not. ‘Wildcats’ looks at the threats facing the Scottish wildcat, how to identify the species and what can be done to protect it..

This programme has been very popular with the children of Colliston Primary School:

“It was fun to see how hard it is to build a dam for a beaver.”
“I liked the skulls best.”
“The bus is cool!”

Leopard slugMini-beast of the Month’:

Leopard slug

This slug was found by Kelloholm Primary School, Dumfries and Galloway.

Did you know that Leopard Slugs have a small disc of shell inside their body? Most slugs evolved from snails and this disc is a remnant shell.

BrodieKnowsBestBrodie Knows Best!

Brodie the toy beaver is the bus mascot and helps children learn all about beavers and their habitat

To get ready for winter beavers start food caching (hoarding) which they store under the water (to keep it fresh) close to their lodge – like storing it in a refrigerator!

Driver-with-antlersFrom the Driver’s Seat….

Each month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland.

“Inchture Primary School, 28 November – the day I refused the Head Teacher entry to her own school!

“I had successfully got through the schools’ security system to enter the building and was now leaving again via the security doors, when a young lady (a total stranger to me) walks past me to enter the school. I stop her from entering and ask her who she was and the purpose of her visit as she could have been anyone and the security system is there for a reason. Her reply “I am the Head teacher here, this is my school”! I apologised and explained the reason for my stance. She paused for thought then thanked me for doing the right thing… How was I to know?!”

Top Teacher Comments and Tweets

“A member of our group who has complex issues and does not always find school easy was fully engaged in all the activities, the pupil even asked questions and said ‘This is amazing!’ High praise indeed!”- Coupar Angus Primary

“All the pupils enjoyed the tasks at all the stations but the wildcat skulls and beaver tracks were especially popular and captured the imagination of our pupils. Excellent presenters who involved all pupils throughout.” – Alyth Primary School

“The practical session followed by investigative work was successful because children were motivated and engaged throughout. The session made effective use of the school wildlife garden.” –Creetown Primary School

Next Month – December

The bus heads for:

North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, Perth & Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh City and West Lothian.

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