Dalzell Estate is a gem of a park full of history and wildlife and legends. With wee burns, meandering paths over little bridges and mysterious buildings, including a castle (now converted into flats), a chapel, and holy wells, it’s a fantastic place for a wander, and it’s hidden away where mostly only locals know about it.
We use it as a focus for all sorts of work, including an interdisciplinary class involving Art, Modern Languages and Social Subjects (and the Librarian!) We take the entire year for a walk, encouraging them to explore the whole place so that later they can use it as the highlight of a pamphlet or poster encourage visitors to our local area.
We were discussing how families might use the park for a day out and pupils had suggested picnics, treasure hunts, rolling Easter Eggs, hide and seek, dog walking and all sorts of games. I was surprised that no-one suggested activities involving the water, so I asked the class about activities using the burns and they came up with paddling and splashing each other.
What about Poohsticks? I asked.
Poohsticks? As played by Winnie the Pooh?
More blank looks.
So, with a touch of disbelief, I explained the whole process (and why it was called Poohsticks). Now I was getting blank, pitying, looks.
You’ve never dropped sticks off a bridge to see what one comes out the other side first? Maybe you call it something else?
Miss, how would you be able to tell one stick from another?
Yeah, Miss, they’re all the same.
And how would they move? And how would you know what side to look at?
I dropped the subject so we could move on, but couldn’t quite get my mind off it. It’s such a simple thing but so much fun: why were so many children missing out? My siblings and I played it for years (without a name or knowing it was connected with Winnie the Pooh). It was just something you did when you crossed a bridge.
Which made me wonder. As we were tidying up, I asked, How many bridges do you cross on your way to school or to the shops or on your way home?
None. Not one. There was so much heavy industry around here that all the watercourses have been built over. No rivers, no bridges, no Poohsticks.
It’s easy to forget that providing a range of experiences doesn’t have to mean expensive events or trips. I’m fairly sure that I will get more pitying looks and laughter when Poohsticks is explained to the next class that takes a trip to Dalzell Estate, but it’s not going to stop me from introducing them to an experience that they’ll hopefully go on to share with their own kids in the future.