High school pupils on outdoor learning with the science skills academy

Peatlands in the spotlight for Highland school pupils

Published: 09/06/2021

More than 1,600 high school pupils across the Highland region are taking part in outdoor science sessions exploring the crucial role that peatlands play in the fight against climate change.

Tain High School pupils learning about peatlands with the Science Skills academy outside.
Tain Royal Academy pupils learning about the importance of peatlands - credit Gillian

This term, the Science Skills Academy (SSA) is running more than 90 sessions for first year pupils in Highland secondary schools to help them learn about the important role peatlands play in tackling the climate crisis.

Working in small groups, the young people will carry out a variety of practical activities, including identifying and classifying plants that thrive in local peatlands.

April Conroy, STEM engagement manager at SSA, said: “We’ve run our first few peatland sessions and have had a fantastic response from the pupils. Peatlands are one of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, particularly as they provide safe drinking water, minimise flood risk and help address climate change.

“Pupils are enjoying finding out about peatlands, and their significance both locally and globally. We’re helping them classify the mosses and lichen found in Highland peatlands. We hope they’ll be able to recognise these plants and have a new appreciation of just how special our local environment is.”

SSA is a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. Its aim is to help increase the number of young people with the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills needed for the future economic growth of the region.

All sessions will raise awareness of COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November. Peatland restoration is a key part of the Scottish Government’s goal of achieving a net-zero Scotland by 2045.

The SSA project received £3m from the Scottish Government as part of the £315m Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments and regional partners.

In addition to the peatland project SSA has created the Highland Newton Room network in locations across the Highlands to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects. The STEM learning facilities have already opened in Fort William, Thurso and Dingwall and a pop-up Newton Room will serve schools in Skye and Lochalsh. Schools will be welcomed as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow.

SSA brings together key organisations including HIE, Highland Council, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Skills Development Scotland, High Life Highland and NHS Highland, all working together to demonstrate this model of STEM delivery in a large rural area. 

Find out more on the SSA website www.scienceskillsacademy.co.uk

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