Ranger School Week

During the first week of the summer holidays, we ran our first-ever Ranger School. This was a unique opportunity for children aged 11-14 to join our Park Rangers for a week and find out exactly what it takes to look after some of the UK’s most protected landscapes. Sill Learning Officer, Rachel Baron explains how the week went.

Joanne (Learning Assistant) and I were really keen to trial a summer holiday club for young people. There are a variety of holiday clubs available for parents to book their children onto during the 6 weeks school holidays, and we knew that the opportunities our Rangers could provide would really hit a niche in the market.

Ranger School has been a real team effort. Joanne and I suggested the idea to the Ranger team, who quickly identified a suitable week at the end of July. The Rangers worked out who would be available each day, and designed activities suitable for young people aged 11-14. Joanne took care of logistics, such as arranging transport for the group, pulling together the itineraries, and coordinating risk assessments.

Week of Activities

Our Activities Support Officer Rosie arranged the tickets and made them available online, while I worked with our Communications staff on the publicity. During the week we also received invaluable support from our Front of House staff at The Sill, and reception staff at our office in Hexham, who helped welcome the children each morning.

The result was a week jam-packed with exciting activities for young people, with parents having the option of booking their children on for the whole week, or selecting the dates they were most interested in. Activities included:

  • Exploring Hadrian’s Wall with Gary, our Trail Ranger, and learning about how he looks after this World Heritage Site.
  • Spending the day at Greenlee Lough with Ranger Sally, taking part in conservation tasks and learning about the wildlife of the area.
  • Being inspired by landscape to create some nature art with the learning team.
  • Taking part in the mammal monitoring event and learning about habitats from our Ecologist Gill, as well as cleaning the mammal traps, which strangely enough was enjoyed by everyone!
  • Building bird and bat boxes with Rangers Sally and Jane.
  • Learning about navigation from our volunteer Dave and getting the opportunity to see our drone in flight with our GIS Officer Ed.

John Muir Award

The six young people who signed up for the full week were given the additional opportunity of working towards a Discovery level John Muir Award. Led by the John Muir Trust, this environmental award scheme encourages people to connect with, enjoy, and care for wild places.

The participants learned about John Muir, a naturalist and environmental activist born in 1838, and his adventures in nature. They also explored a variety of habitats in the National Park, taking part in conservation work at Greenlee Lough, and shared their experiences online in order to encourage others to look after the landscape around them.

We received really positive comments from the 9 young people who attended across the week. Their favourite activities were those at Greenlee Lough, taking part in the mammal monitoring, and building the bird and bat boxes.

One participant wrote on their evaluation form that their favourite day was at Greenlee ‘because we did lots of hands on work,’ with another writing ‘I loved seeing animals in the wild.’ One of the parents commented that ‘they really enjoyed the week, and even the weather didn’t affect their enjoyment too much!’

With such positive feedback, we are really hopeful we can run Ranger School again next year and use the experience to help us inform our thinking about how we engage young people from this age group.

The week comes to an end

Ranger School participants at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre.