Pupils gather in Auchtertyre for “Marine Magic” event

Pupils from Glenelg and Loch Duich primary schools in Lochalsh joined their peers at Auchtertyre recently for a day of fun and educational activities provided by the “Marine Magic” team.

Organised by RSPB’s local education officer Judith Bullivant, the event brought together a wealth of experienced providers to lead a range of workshops, all aimed at raising awareness of the sea.

Judith said: “We were delighted to be able to offer this wonderful opportunity to local primary pupils. We ran similar events in Portree, Ullapool and Gairloch earlier in the year for over 500 pupils — these were extremely well received with very positive feedback from participants and providers alike. So, thanks to the generosity of our funders, we were able to reconvene the team in Auchtertyre and enable another 110 children to benefit.

“As well as the educational value of the workshops, school staff commented on how much their pupils enjoyed the opportunity to meet with others and to share time and activities with their peers. “We are very grateful to all the funders for supporting these events — we are only too aware of the constraints on school budgets, so it was particularly important for us to be able to offer assistance with transport costs to attend these days.

During the day each pupil took part in four different workshops, with parallel programmes running for upper and lower primary classes. Thank­fully the wild weather took a break for the day and allowed the younger classes to hear stories and music about the sea from storyteller and musician Bob Pegg in the cosy setting of Auchtertyre School’s tee-pee.

The rest of their day included acting out a rock pool play; making jelly­fish and learning about white-tailed eagles with RSPB field teachers; and discovering the hazards of sea-borne litter to leatherback turtles and other marine wildlife with Matt Barnes of the Marine Conservation Society. The older classes learned to mend nets and splice ropes with retired fisherman Brian Wells from Portree; they heard about some of the fish species favoured by fishermen; met the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s life-size inflatable models of harbour porpoise and common dolphin and learned about marine mammals with the capable guidance of Janet Ullman.

Pupils also researched and acted out a practical demonstration of the topical issue of Marine Protected Areas with Highland Council countryside ranger John Phillips, and used digital tracking devices in the school grounds to simulate the feeding patterns of seabirds through the RSPB’s “FAME” game. The Marine Magic days were made possible by funding from RSPB’s “SEEVIEWS” programme, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council’s discretionary fund, Seachangers, Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum, Wester Ross Environment Forum, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the support of workshop leaders and volunteers.